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China Analysis Digest #34

Publications from October 14-22, 2021

Hey folks,

An update on the digest project…

We started publishing the Analysis Digest in March and the Scholarship Digest in August. Since then, we have experimented around, expanded the source lists, and revised the codes that make it all work.

In the last couple of months, we’ve been working on overhauling the code architecture. Very pleased that it’s now finally complete! You probably wouldn’t feel much of a difference, but it’s a world of difference for us: the backstage tech we used was cumbersome and inefficient — but no longer! Importantly, we can now more accurately capture and filter out content.

We’ve also made some changes to the Analysis Digest. We’ve added a batch of new sources, bringing the total up to 100. This covers most of the publications that I find useful on China. In addition, we’ve now put the sources into broad categories so that it’s easier for you to jump between different types of sources.

Since the two existing digests are now in good shape, we are starting work on the next one: the Official China Digest. This digest aims to provide lists of primary source official documents coming out of Beijing, including Party and state policy documents, speeches of leaders, meeting readouts, articles in key official publications, etc.

This undertaking is more challenging than the previous digests. It requires mapping out the entire Chinese political system and figuring how to source official material. You can help us by suggesting the categories of material you’d like us to capture, pointing us to sources, and helping us think about how to categorise this information (by type, institution, subject, etc?).

Last but not least, an acknowledgment: a thousand thanks go out to Katharina, my wife, who spent hundreds of hours coding for this project. The digests would simply not have been possible without her enthusiasm, ideas, skills and hard work.

- Adam

China Analysis Digest is a weekly published list of new China-related analyses.

Issue: 2021/34

  • Date range: October 14-22, 2021

  • Sources1 scanned: 100

  • Content: 241 publications from 61 sources

  • Download raw data (.csv)

Remembering Liu Xiaobo’s moral critique of modern China

Kerry Brown | Engelsberg Ideas | October 20

In his reflection of Liu’s critique of China, Brown highlights the “surface similarities” between the key concerns of Liu and Xi Jinping, namely, moral decay. But the two differed in their prescriptions. Liu wanted political reform and democratisation while for Xi it was (and still is) about consolidating the Party’s power and rebuilding its moral leadership. As China sails deeper into Xi’s new era, the moral critique of Liu, a “representative of a tragic generation of intellectuals in China,”  is more and not less relevant to us thinking about China’s future. (1379 words)

Of Rose-Coloured Glasses, Old and New

Fabio Lanza | Made in China Journal | October 20

Lanza compares two pro-China stances — that of 1960s global Maoism and that of today — and argues that they are not similar in any meaningful way. He explains:

[T]hey developed under very different historical and political contingencies, which they did, but also because they embody radically different (or rather antithetical) political positions. That the pro-China stance is now embraced by intellectuals and activists who have a direct connection to the longer history of the global left…is revelatory of a crisis on the left and the general collapse of its sets of references, more than of any actual similarity between this moment and that of the 1960s.

The implication for today:

the PRC offers an alternative, not to capitalism, but to the form of the neoliberal state: it might be an alternative path we do not want to follow, but it is one we must examine. We can therefore learn with China, and with Chinese people, not because we are both engaged in a search for radical futures (as in the long 1960s), but because we are all experiencing both the commonalities and the localised contingencies of late capitalism.

Lanza is right: China is not the antithesis of the West, but rather a country dealing with many of the same problems of late capitalism confronting western societies. Even if we don’t agree with the direction China is traveling, we can learn from it. (2574 words)

An insider’s view of China’s Communist Party: Corruption and capitalist excess

Jude Blanchette | Washington Post | October 15

Blanchette, in reviewing Desmond Shum’s new memoir, Red Roulette, raises two issues. The first is critical role of personal relations in Chinese elite politics, which is much harder for outsiders to understand than formal institutions and rules:

[Shum’s memoir] highlight[s] the limitations of more formalistic analysis of China’s political system. While the hierarchical, Leninist nature of party governance and decision-making remains an important conduit for the exercise of authority, it is in the informal interactions among the political, business and military elite that true power is exercised. In this, Shum’s depiction of how power is wielded brings to mind Milovan Djilas’s 1957 critique of Soviet communism, in which he observed: “Meetings of party forums, conferences of the government and assemblies, serve no purpose but to make declarations and put in an appearance. They are only convened to confirm what has previously been cooked up in intimate kitchens.”

Second, unchecked power and the inevitable privilege that arise from it:

As Xi continues to nudge China’s political system in the direction of dictatorship, the official rhetoric of equality and socialism will become more pronounced as he attempts to reforge the party’s popular legitimacy. Yet, as Djilas observed about the Soviet Union, so long as the Communist Party controls all power and property, “it inevitably creates privileges and parasitic functions.” Xi hopes that his very public denouncements of corruption signal a new model of clean authoritarian governance, but as Shum warns in the book’s final passage: “The reality is that the Party’s main purpose is to serve the interests of the sons and daughters of its revolutionaries. They are the primary beneficiaries; they are the ones sitting at the nexus of economic and political power.”

Earlier in the week, a journalist asked me whether Xi and his mates actually believe in their rhetoric about common prosperity. I pointed to the unfolding campaign against the entertainment sector and the wealth of the leaders’ families, and replied: how can they lead morally when their hypocrisy is so glaringly obvious? (983 words)

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China Watching

China Neican

Reading the China Dream

Made in China Journal

China Heritage

China Media Project

Opinion Pages

Project Syndicate

Australian Financial Review


China Story


The Interpreter

East Asia Forum

China Dialogue

Pearls and Irritations

The Strategist

News & Magazines

Foreign Affairs

Monkey Cage

The Atlantic

The Economist

Sixth Tone


China Digital Times

The Conversation

National Review

The Intercept

The Wire China



The Diplomat

Foreign Policy

Think Tanks


Center for Advanced China Research

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Australia-China Relations Institute

Atlantic Council

Observer Research Foundation

Australia Strategic Policy Institute


Politico China Direct

Beijing to Britain

Beijing to Canberra and Back


World Game

Eye on China


Beijing Baselines


Takshashila PLA Insight

Tracking People's Daily


China Law Translate

National People's Congress Observer

Society & Culture

What's on Weibo


Paper Republic

Greater China


Hong Kong Free Press

Taiwan Insight

Chinese Sources






  1. Full source list: China Neican, Reading the China Dream, Made in China Journal, China Heritage, China Media Project, China Leadership Monitor, Tracking People's Daily, China Brief, Project Syndicate, Australian Financial Review, China Story, ChinaFile, War on the Rocks, Lawfare, The Interpreter, East Asia Forum, China Opinion, China Collection, China Dialogue, Pearls and Irritations, The Strategist, Echo Wall, Asialink Insight, Palladium, Inside Story, Foreign Affairs, Monkey Cage, The Atlantic, The Economist, Los Angeles Review of Books, Sixth Tone, Quartz, China Digital Times, The Conversation, National Review, Internationale Politik Quarterly, The Intercept, The Wire China, SupChina, ThinkChina, The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, MacroPolo, Center for Advanced China Research, Pew Research Center, Congressional Research Service, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for Security and Emerging Technology, MERICS, Institut Montaigne, European Council on Foreign Relations, National Bureau of Asian Research, Brookings Institution, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China Data Lab, Rhodium Group, Asia Society, Australia-China Relations Institute, China Research Group, Center for New American Security, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Chatham House, Lowy Institute, Atlantic Council, Observer Research Foundation, Australia Strategic Policy Institute, Politico China Watcher, Politico China Direct, The India China Newsletter, Beijing Baselines, Beijing to Britain, Beijing to Canberra and Back, World Game, Eye on China, The Upheaval, ChinaTalk, Pekingnology, Takshashila PLA Insight, Beijing Channel, Protocol | China, Chinese Storytellers, Chinarrative, Texas National Security Review, China Law Translate, China Trade Monitor, National People's Congress Observer, What's on Weibo, Chaoyang Trap House, RADII, Paper Republic, Lausan, Hong Kong Free Press, Taiwan Insight, 中国:历史与未来, 爱思想, 《求是》, 中国现代国际关系研究院, 中央党史和文献研究院, 习近平系列重要讲话数据库.