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MERICS researchers discuss and analyze developments and current affairs in China: What is behind the Belt and Road Initiative? What kind of leader is Xi Jinping? How should we assess China’s climate change policies? How does the Chinese government use social media to its own ends?

In addition to MERICS’s own staff, other experts on China and guest speakers at MERICS also take part in the interviews.

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Tony Saich: “As authoritarian leader I would want to learn from China”

July 1, 2016

The speed with which Xi Jinping has introduced stronger controls on society has surprised many China watchers. The Xi administration has been “extraordinarily successful” in controlling and shaping political communication especially online says Anthony Saich of Harvard Kennedy School: “If I was an authoritarian leader somewhere else in the world, I would want to learn lessons from China.” Moreover, laws constraining foreign NGOs while encouraging domestic charity work for causes close to the CCP’s priorities tend to further reduce space for association and new ideas.

Roderick MacFarquhar: China’s strong top man heads a very fragile system

June 30, 2016

Xi Jinping has centralized power in China to unprecedented levels: he has sidelined both the prime minister and the state council and is trying to control everything himself says distinguished Harvard historian Roderick MacFarquhar. Xi might have – like Mao Zedong long before him - a vision and a sense of direction for China but he lacks the authority and historic legitimacy to implement his ideas. Even worse: his leadership style weakens the entire system. That’s Roderick Macfarquhar in the new Merics Experts podcast.

China Dispute: Will Top-Down Leadership Achieve Political Stability?

June 28, 2016

Review of MERICS China Dispute “The Xi Jinping challenge: Will top-down leadership achieve political stability in China?” with Richard McGregor, Roderick MacFarquhar, Sebastian Heilmann and Anthony Saich.

Michael Fuchs: Trump's „unpredictability is not a foreign policy“

June 21, 2016

China is one of Donald Trump’s favourite punching bags. If elected to the White House, he wants to label China a “currency manipulator” and impose hefty tariffs on imports from China. Such talk makes Michael Fuchs of the Center for American Progress and a former advisor to Hillary Clinton rather uneasy. “Trump is unpredictable” he says in the new Merics Experts podcast. And he warns: “Unpredictability is not a foreign policy”. How much damage can Trump do to the complex Sino-American relationship? And is that relationship going to become more competitive no matter who enters the White House?

Arthur Kroeber: "China’s economic policies lack clarity and direction"

June 9, 2016

With the right economic policies China could continue to grow at a rate of about five per cent per year for another decade says Arthur Kroeber of Gavecal Dragonomics, an independent research firm in Beijing. But the country would have to cut SOEs by up to a half and push through financial reforms. However, Xi Jingping’s economic policies lack clarity and direction. China still depends too much on stimulus measures and credit to keep the economy going. Little change is in the offing with the 19th party congress already looming large.

Han Dongfang: Labour relations are key to reforms in China

June 6, 2016

Tensions on Chinese factory floors have been running high recently – because of non-payment of wages and because some industries have moved their investments to other parts of Asia. Labour relations are fraught and protests can potentially threaten social stability says Han Dongfang, founder of the NGO China Labour Bulletin and a former Tian’anmen activist now based in Hongkong. He is confident though that the government is looking for a long-term solution and seems willing to make collective workplace bargaining easier. In the long run, true trade union reform could be a game changer in China, says Han Dongfang.

Shawn Shieh: New NGO-Law – The door for international NGOs remains open

May 26, 2016

Many non-governmental organisations are concerned about a new Chinese law that imposes tighter controls on international non-profit groups working in China. The law is seen as an attempt to further squeeze the space of civil society. It could affect not just NGOs but also cultural exchanges and business associations. But a lot of details are still unclear, says Shawn Shieh, deputy director of China Labour Bulletin, an NGO based in Hongkong. How draconian the law is going to be depends largely on its implementation – in China that is often a rather patchy process.

Thomas Eder: Islands, rocks and reefs in the South China Sea

May 24, 2016

Tensions in the South China Sea could further escalate after a ruling by a UN tribunal expected within the next few weeks. The case over tiny rocks and reefs brought to the UN by the Philippines has far reaching implications. China claims almost all of the South China Sea and has already rejected the tribunal’s right to rule on these matters. Thomas Eder of Merics says should the UN court rule in favour of the Philippines, Beijing is likely to take provocative action to reassert its claims – like stepping up island building activities or declaring an air defense identification zone similar to the East China Sea. Europe should take note, says Eder, because the South China Sea is an important shipping route for the EU’s trade with Asia. Increasing tensions pose challenges that Europe cannot afford to ignore.

Daniel Leese: "The Legacy of the Cultural Revolution"

May 13, 2016

50 years after the start of the Cultural Revolution Xi Jinping tries to reconnect to Chinas Maoist heritage. He won’t allow to mobilise the masses as Mao did, because he is afraid of losing control said Professor Daniel Leese in our MERICS Podcast.

Yuen-Ying Chan: “China cannot impose draconian controls forever”

April 20, 2016

Media freedom in China has suffered under president Xi Jinping. In the latest press freedom index of Reporters without Borders China ranks at the bottom of the list followed only by Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. These are hard times for journalists in China, says professor Yuen-ying Chan. She is the founding director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at Hongkong University. But she also argues that despite tight censorship and increased controls, there are still spaces for independent and investigative journalism in China. And in the long run there is a glimmer of hope: “China cannot impose draconian controls forever.”