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Welcome everybody to today's book talks by the Burkle center, co sponsored by the Political Science department and the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies. A few announcements before we begin. Today's webinar is being recorded, but only the speakers will be visible and audible. The audience cannot be seen or heard in today's recording. Both the video and audio recordings will be available on the Burkle Center website, as well as on YouTube and on Apple podcasts. We invite you to submit your questions for the speaker through the Q&A portal, which is located at the bottom of your screen. Today's guest is Susan Shirk, who's a Research Professor and Chair of the 21st Century China Center located at the UC San Diego campus. Susan Shirk first visited China in 1971, and since then has become one of the US's foremost experts on modern Chinese politics. From 1997 to 2000, Dr. Shirk served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Clinton administration with responsibility for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mongolia. She has published numerous books and articles on modern Chinese politics for both academic audiences as well as for policymakers. Today, we're delighted to discuss her latest book entitled Overreach: How China Derailed its Peaceful Rise. So I'm gonna go ahead and with our audience, please welcome Dr. Shirk. Susan, could you turn on your camera and please join us today. Thank you so much for joining us. I'll go ahead and hand the broadcast over to you.


Well, thanks so much, Leslie, and thanks to the Burkle Center for inviting me to join you to talk about my new book. It's really a great opportunity, and I look forward to more such opportunities when I could come up and do it in person, especially with groups of UCLA faculty and students. As Leslie said, I am an old China hand. I've been studying China for a very long time. I first went to China in 1971, and ever since Mao passed from the scene, and Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms and opening to the world, my experience studying China and China's own trajectory has really been by and large a positive one. People's lives in China were improving dramatically, of course, their living standards, but also their individual freedom to live and work where they wished, and greater access to information and culture outside of China, travel abroad. And at the same time, China's relations with the United States and with other countries were, by and large, pretty good. Considering that this was a period when China's economic and military capabilities were improving dramatically. And China's political system of party autocracy was very different from the American political system of open market democracies. But, due largely to the effective diplomacy on the Chinese side, as well as on the US side, the two countries managed to get along pretty well. China's policy was what I would describe as one of restraint and reassurance, trying to persuade its neighbors, the United States, and other countries that even though it was a rising power and getting much stronger, its intentions were benign, its intentions were friendly. And certainly this policy worked quite well. Most notably, with China's 20 neighbors surrounding it, all of whom became China became their largest trading partner. But that changed pretty significantly in the mid-2000s. And when I observed changes in Chinese foreign policy and domestic policy, to be more assertive, even aggressive internationally, and more social control and control over the economy, also becoming more statist and repressive domestically. That was a puzzle to me. So the I set about doing the research for this book to try to understand what was going on. Now, so that really is the first surprise in my book, that this tendency to overreach - to take its actions too far, its policies too extreme, and to create backlash internationally, as well as domestically, to do things in an exaggerated way in a manner that then snaps back to harm yourself. That is the definition of overreach. And that's why I think it's so apropos to try to understand how we got from this policy of restraint and reassurance to this pattern of overreach, which now has left China with in really quite a difficult situation, even as it has grown stronger. The other interesting surprise is that this shift occurs during a period of collective leadership. It didn't start with Xi Jinping. It started under a more oligarchic rule of a nine person standing committee of the Chinese Communist Party with a relatively weak leader, Hu Jintao, who wasn't able to enforce restraint on the other senior leaders, all of whom pursued the interests of the concentrated bureaucratic interest groups that they were in charge of. And, in particular, policy got hijacked by what I call the control coalition, under the leader Zhou Yongkang. And that's the internal security apparatus, the People's Armed Police, the political legal bureau of the Chinese Communist Party, the propaganda department, and of course, the military. So, this control coalition benefited - got more resources, bigger budgets, more power inside China by exaggerating the international threats, as well as the domestic threats to Chinese Communist Party rule. And instead of under collective leadership, these bureaucratic interest groups, restraining one another checking one another in a system of mutual vetoes and consensus building, which political scientists would predict. Instead, they log rolled with one another, which is an insight that I learned from international relations expert Jack Snyder, at Columbia in his analysis of pre-war Germany and Japan. He explained the overreaching of these regimes by this pattern of concentrated bureaucratic interest groups and how they log rolled with one another. Now, of course, log rolling is a term used in American congressional politics. So it's, it's quite different from that. But what it means is that the senior leaders, rather than deliberating among themselves or checking one another, they just let each one of their colleagues do whatever they wanted in their own domain, and that meant taking things too far. So that's how you got overreach under collective leadership. The types of overreach that were really the most damaging to China and influential in changing the narrative about was China a responsible rising power, or was it a dangerously aggressive rising power, really - internationally most important was what happened in the South China Sea, where China has started challenging the other claimants to the land features - the rocks, as well as the waters in the South China Sea, beginning in 2006. So, I want to highlight that because that's before the global financial crisis. So, this is really being driven by the internal political dynamics more than either domestic nationalism, because at that time, the South China Sea was not a focal point of popular nationalism, such as Japan was. Really there wasn't much attention paid to the South China Sea. But these various civilian bureaucracies, like fisheries, marine surveillance, even Hainan Island, they started trying to enforce China's sovereignty claims over the South China Sea. And they brought along TV cameras, tried to publicize their staunch defense of the sovereignty claims in a way that did attract more nationalist public opinion. It also meant bigger budgets, more ships, planes, for these agencies. And they even started challenging American naval surveillance operations in this area, which of course, according to the United States and most other countries, is viewed as international waters. But China has this more expansive claim of sovereignty over it. So these provocative actions really alarmed the United States, alarmed the other claimants like Vietnam and the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries and resulted in a deterioration of, I would say, China's own national security, because instead of having these positive relations with its neighbors, it started having more acrimonious, mutually suspicious relations with its neighbors. The two other types of - Oh, and I'd say, of course, this area's very important for international commerce, but really what was most significant about what happened to the South China Sea was that it changed perceptions, changed the narrative about what kind of rising power China was. Internally, we had a shift to a more extreme approach to social control on the eve of the 2008 Beijing Olympics under the control coalition. At the time when things tightened up, I thought, well this is going to be temporary, as we often see, before major events in China, and then things go back to normal, loosen up after they get through the event. But in this case, in 2007-2008, what we see is grid management, extreme what they call weiwen - stability, maintenance, social control - and it never loosens up ever since, including the tight control of the content of the media and internet. You know, before that time, in Hu Jintao's first term, we had what I would call peak freedom of information in China. But they tightened up before the Olympics and they never loosened up ever since. And the third type of overreach, which was very significant, was the state. After decades of market-oriented decentralization, the state came back to try to ramp up China's indigenous innovation with a more statist approach to the economy. And again, this has continued ever since. So that's kind of the inflection point, the turning point. By the end of collective leadership - 10 years of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao - the Chinese system was highly corrupt, because under this oligarchic rule, and that's what really gave Xi Jinping the mandate from the other senior leaders to restore more centralized leadership. But, they never imagined that he was going to create a centralized, personalistic, and pretty dictatorial system, similar to that, which Mao had because after Mao died, Deng Xiaoping very explicitly tried to restore collective leadership to Communist Party rule, in order to prevent what he called the overconcentration of authority, which led to arbitrary decisionmaking, such as that, that Mao did, with the tragic Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution campaigns. So, in order to avoid that type of over concentration of authority, he introduced all sorts of regularized transfer of power at the top and retirement rules and collective institutions of the party playing a more important role. But Xi Jinping came in and made a U turn. He abandoned a lot of the features, almost all of those features, of collective leadership and went back to a more concentrated system of rule. The justification was largely this rampant corruption, and Xi Jinping started a major anti-corruption campaign in 2013, which also was effectively a purge of all the potential rivals to his power - the real rivals and the imagined rivals. And that campaign, that purge really continues to the current day, and about a million and a half party and government officials have been targeted. Many senior officials, including Zhou Yongkang, the head of the control coalition, were put in jail for the rest of their lives. And Xi Jinping focused heavily on loyalty. And people who were not loyal were at risk of being targeted by the purge. So, this purge really created a very high-pressure political environment for Chinese officials from 2013 right up to today. 041b061a72


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