Sunday, March 8, 2015

No. 2 U.S. Sinologist Predicts "Endgame of Chinese Communist Rule Has Begun"

Photo credit: Kevin Poh. Creative Commons.

In January, researchers at China's Foreign Affairs University (外交学院) published the "American China School Assessment Report" (Chinese link), rating the top U.S. sinologists based on a number of broad measures: a person's influence on actual U.S. China policy, academic influence, and social influence. Specific sub-measures include a sinologist's publications, testimony in relevant congressional hearings, social network and affiliations, etc.

Writers of the report effectively looked at 158 current U.S. sinologists from think tanks, universities, government, and the military, assessing their work and influence from 2003-2013. The top 20 sinologists were as follows:

In this weekend's edition of the Wall Street Journal the entire space above the fold in the Review section was dominated by a huge portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Below the bold image was the title "The Coming Chinese Crackup", authored by David Shambaugh, who also happens to be number two on the list of most prominent and influential sinologists.

Professor of international affairs and director of the China Policy Institute at George Washington University, Shambaugh in the essay argues that China's leaders are constructing a "facade of stability" to hide the country's deteriorating political system. He highlights five points to support his argument: (1) a tremendous proportion of China's elites have escape plans because they do not trust the stability of the political system; (2) greater repression under Xi belies an insecure regime; (3) supposed loyalists of the system are themselves seemingly lacking confidence in that system; (4) corruption is more deeply rooted in the political system than Xi's anti-corruption campaign can reach; (5) genuine economic reform policy is counteracted by interest groups that obstruct its implementation.

In short, Shambaugh predicts "The endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun". This despite his acknowledgement that "several seasoned Sinologists have risked their professional reputations by asserting that the collapse of CCP rule was inevitable."

Whether or not you agree with Shambaugh's analysis, it's interesting that the person rated by China's Foreign Affairs University as the second most reputable and influential American sinologist just predicted that China's ruling regime has begun its terminal descent.


  1. How will this affect US China relations?

  2. How will this affect US China relations?

  3. There won't be able major changes in U.S. policy toward China. Diplomats will continue to sit back and observe any changes in intra-party politics. From an economic and security perspective, the U.S. really does not have an interest in seeing a sudden, messy political transition in China. As it derails the Chinese economy, it would take the U.S. and global economy with it. If anything, if Shambaugh is right and U.S. foreign policy officials sense dangerous intra-party tensions, they would be better to encourage changes that could prolong a transition, increasing the likelihood of avoiding chaos. In today's interconnected world, chaotic political change is bad for everyone, not just the Chinese people--who would certainly suffer most. Of course, we should reiterate that all of the above thoughts are premised on a key assumption: Shambaugh is correct in his assessment. Many respected analysts have already publicly disagreed with him since his declaration.