NCUSCR China Podcast Series

Over the last decade, China has emerged as one of the largest suppliers of international development finance, with a large and growing overseas development budget. Yet China does not release detailed information about the “where, what, how, and to whom” of its development aid. This presents an obstacle for policy makers, practitioners, and analysts who seek to understand the distribution and impact of Chinese development finance.


Since 2013, AidData has led an ambitious effort to develop an open source data collection methodology called Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF), and maintain a publicly available database of Chinese development projects around the world. AidData has also teamed up with a group of economists and political scientists from leading universities around the world to conduct cutting-edge research with this database, examining differences and similarities in the levels, priorities, and consequences of Chinese and American development finance.


On March 13, Dr. Brad Parks, executive director of AidData and a faculty member at the College of William and Mary, discussed the organization’s work with the National Committee in New York City. Drawing on advanced techniques that include using nighttime light and deforestation data from high-resolution satellite imagery, Dr. Parks presented new findings on the intended economic development impacts and the unintended environmental impacts of Chinese development projects.


Brad Parks is AidData’s executive director and a research faculty member at the College of William and Mary’s Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations. His research focuses on the cross-national and sub-national distribution and impact of international development finance, and the design and implementation of policy and institutional reforms in low-income and middle-income countries. His publications include Greening Aid?, Understanding the Environmental Impact of Development Assistance (Oxford University Press, 2008) and A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy (MIT Press, 2006). He is currently involved in several empirical studies of the upstream motivations for, and downstream effects of, Chinese development finance. His research in this area has been published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the Journal of Development StudiesChina Economic Quarterly, and the National Interest.


From 2005 to 2010, Dr. Parks was part of the initial team that set up the U.S. Government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). As acting director of Threshold Programs at the MCC, he oversaw the implementation of a $35 million anti-corruption and judicial reform project in Indonesia and a $21 million customs and tax reform project in the Philippines.

Dr. Parks holds a Ph.D. in international relations and an M.Sc. in development management from the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Direct download: Parks_-_Aid_Data_Podcast_Interview.mp3
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Since becoming general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, Xi Jinping has pursued a bold policy agenda designed to strengthen the party and enhance influence abroad, consolidating more power and authority than any Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping. Throughout this period, President Xi’s actions and pronouncements have often seemed to be contradictory. He has called for greater legal development, championed China’s think tanks, and advanced cooperation with the United States on key issues of global concern. At the same time, his administration has prosecuted human rights lawyers, tightened media control, and restrained foreign NGOs. He is a strong proponent of market reforms but has yet to adequately address overcapacity in the state sector. Xi’s paradoxical pursuits have inspired widely different conclusions among analysts about his ultimate intentions. But in the context of China’s domestic politics, these apparent contradictions reflect a certain logic. Comprehending the inner workings of Chinese politics is therefore essential to gauging the prospects for U.S.-China relations, particularly as a new U.S. president takes office and as China’s top leaders jockey for power ahead of the 2017 party congress.


In his new work, Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership, Brookings Institution scholar Cheng Li reveals the status of political institutionalization in Xi’s China by examining the backgrounds of the 376 members of the party’s Central Committee. Dr. Li contextualizes President Xi’s rise and illuminates the intriguing dynamics of factional politics within the party. On January 25, in a conversation with National Committee President Stephen Orlins, Dr. Li shared his insights into Chinese elite politics, his analysis of Xi Jinping’s views and vision, and his forecast of the upcoming leadership change at the 2017 party congress.


Cheng Li is director and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. Dr. Li is also on the National Committee’s board of directors, a member of the Academic Advisory Team of the Congressional U.S.-China Working Group, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Committee of 100.

Dr. Li has advised a wide range of U.S. government, education, research, business and not-for-profit organizations on work in China. He is the author and editor of numerous books, He is the principal editor of the Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series, published by the Brookings Institution Press.

Dr. Li grew up in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. In 1985, he came to the United States, where he received an M.A. in Asian studies from the University of California and a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University.


Direct download: Cheng_Li_interview.mp3
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Award-winning author John Pomfret discusses his newly published The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom, tracing the history of Sino-American relations, in a conversation with National Committee President Stephen Orlins on January 23, 2017 in New York.

Although the contemporary U.S.-China relationship has grown out of Nixon and Kissinger’s visits to China in the 1970s, the foundations of Sino-American exchange are hundreds of years old. Since the establishment of the United States, missionaries, traders, scholars, and laborers have formed bridges between the two cultures, tracing familiar patterns of interaction that continue to play out today. As points of contact between the U.S. and China have proliferated over the last two centuries, the relationship has consistently been characterized by enormous promise and deep ambivalence.

John Pomfret, former reporter for The Washington Post, and a long-time resident of China, takes a new look at the long history of U.S.-China relations in his recent book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present. He describes cycles of mutual understanding and collaboration, and bitter disappointment. As U.S.-China relations approach a new inflection point, Mr. Pomfret’s account of the history of the relationship provides illuminating perspectives on the present. 

Direct download: Pomfret_Podcast_Interview.mp3
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Noted China expert Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, discusses relations between China and America in the dawning era of Xi and Trump, in an interview with National Committee on U.S.-China Relations Senior Director for Education Programs, Margot Landman, on December 12, 2016.

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, where he also holds appointments in law and literary journalism. His most recent books are, as editor, The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern China, and, as author, Eight Juxtapositions: China through Imperfect Analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo, both published this year. A regular contributor to newspapers, magazines, and blogs, he is a former member of the board of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is the leading nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages understanding of China and the United States among citizens of both countries.

Direct download: Wasserstrom_interview.mp3
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New Yorker magazine Staff Writer Jiayang Fan discusses relations between China and America in the dawning era of Xi and Trump, in an interview with National Committee on U.S.-China Relations Senior Director for Education Programs, Margot Landman, on December 12, 2016.

Jiayang Fan is a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine, where she writes about China and Chinese-American politics and culture. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Book ReviewThe New York Times Magazine, and the Paris Review, among other places. Ms. Fan was born in Chongqing, moving to the United States at the age of eight. She graduated from Williams College with a double major in philosophy and English literature. She received a Fulbright scholarship to spend a year in Korea.

The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is the leading nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages understanding of China and the United States among citizens of both countries.

Direct download: Jiayang_Fan_Interview.mp3
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Unresolved questions about Hong Kong’s political future, long hidden beneath the surface of the territory’s bustling commercial activity, burst to the forefront in 2014 in response to proposed electoral reforms. Since then the debate over democracy in Hong Kong has developed into a significant challenge to Beijing’s vision for the former British colony. The Umbrella Movement, the 2015 “Fishball Revolution,” and the recent LegCo oath-taking controversy, have brought attention to the issues as Hong Kong’s economic inequality has grown, community-police relations have deteriorated, and some citizens worry that they are losing control of their own cultural and political destiny.

An expert on China’s relations with its neighbors, Richard Bush is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and is director of its Center for East Asia Policy Studies. In his new book, Hong Kong in the Shadow of China: Living with the Leviathan, Dr. Bush examines both the immediate and long term causes of Hong Kong’s demonstrations, and analyzes the emergence of a pro-democracy movement galvanized by millennials’ activism. He explores the options available to Hong Kong and China, as well as what they must do to ensure both economic competitiveness and good governance. On December 7, 2016, Dr. Bush discussed his book, the Hong Kong protests, and their implications for U.S policy with the National Committee in New York City, in a conversation moderated by National Committee President Stephen Orlins.

Direct download: Richard_Bush_Podcast.mp3
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The Chinese economic miracle of the last three decades has been powered by millions of people transitioning out of agriculture and into urban industrial jobs, transforming labor relations in the process. Legal mechanisms have struggled to keep pace with the frictions and challenges that accompanied marketization and the fastest urbanization in history. Progress in legislating legal protections for workers is often hampered by problems of implementation and employer preferences for unofficial mediation. New research suggests that labor unrest is on the rise, and the gap between legal needs and services remains substantial. Even though China’s Labor Law has been on the books since 1994 and was revised and updated in 2008, problems of wage arrears, workplace injuries, and illegal subcontracting persist. The effectiveness of attempts to curtail employer misconduct is not only an essential question for working class Chinese, but is also of great interest to a regime that emphasizes stability and social harmony.

Aaron Halegua, an expert on U.S. and Chinese employment law, has written a new, in-depth report on the legal challenges confronting Chinese workers. In Who Will Represent China’s Workers? Lawyers, Legal Aid and the Enforcement of Labor Rights (October, 2016), Mr. Halegua looks at the structural causes of labor abuses, and offers policy solutions that would bolster legal protections for workers. In a December 1, 2016 interview in New York City, Mr. Halegua shared his findings and discussed the future of Chinese labor law with the National Committee’s Senior Director for Education Programs Margot E. Landman. 

The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is the leading nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages understanding of China and the United States among citizens of both countries.

Direct download: Aron_Halegua_Podcast.mp3
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Do leaders make history or does history make leaders? At a National Committee program on November 10, 2016, in New York City, Kerry Brown tackled these perennial questions as he talked about the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography, which he edited—the first work of its kind in over a century. Brown presented Chinese biography as a uniquely useful way to understand historical events, and discussed the influence of individual Chinese leaders, in different fields, over the last four decades. He also discussed his book CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping, which examines the role of Xi Jinping today and contrasts him with Chinese leaders of the past. Brown discussed Chinese leadership questions in a global context, and explored how individuals are shaped by their times but also have the potential to influence Chinese and world history. He was joined in conversation by NCUSCR President Stephen Orlins.

Kerry Brown is professor of Chinese Studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King's College, London. From 2012 to 2015 he was professor of Chinese Politics and director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia. Prior to this he worked at Chatham House from 2006 to 2012, as senior fellow and then head of the Asia Programme. From 1998 to 2005 he worked at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as first secretary at the British Embassy in Beijing, and then as head of the Indonesia, Philippine and East Timor Section. He lived in the Inner Mongolia region of China from 1994 to 1996.

Dr. Brown has a Master of Arts from Cambridge University, a Post Graduate Diploma in Mandarin Chinese (Distinction) from Thames Valley University, London, and a PhD in Chinese politics and language from Leeds University.  He is the author of over ten books on modern Chinese politics, history and language, the most recent of which are The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China (2014) and What's Wrong with Diplomacy: The Case of the UK and China (2015). He was editor in chief of the Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography (in four volumes- 2014-2015). His CEO, China: the Rise of Xi Jinping was published in 2016.

Direct download: Kerry_Brown_Podcast_Interview.mp3
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Heading into 2016, some expected a sharp decline in China’s economic growth. So far, China has avoided a hard landing and continues to meet its modified growth targets, but the slowdown is clearly real. As China adjusts to its “new normal,” business leaders remain anxious about the long term prospects of the world’s second largest economy. Concerned about lagging structural reforms, high corporate debt ratios, stock market volatility, and hesitant policy responses, market sentiment is softening, and uncertainty prevails. Slowing growth has also reduced American corporate profits, but China is still the most attractive emerging market in the world, and most companies have decided to stay – at least for now. The US-China Business Council’s (USCBC) Annual Membership Survey captures how American companies view the changing business environment and are responding to this challenge. 

The survey’s data reveals the difficult position of American business leaders operating in China. While nearly 20 percent of respondents expect their revenue to decline in the coming year, 90 percent say their business remains profitable and that China continues to be a priority market. On October 20, 2016, USCBC President John Frisbie presented the survey’s key findings, in a discussion with National Committee President Stephen Orlins.


John Frisbie, president of the USCBC since 2004, has 30 years of experience in business and government relations with China, including nearly 10 years living and working in Beijing.

Mr. Frisbie started his career with the USCBC in 1986, first working in USCBC’s Washington, D.C., office, then as director of China operations in Beijing from 1988 to 1993. He joined General Electric (GE) in 1993 as director for business development in China for the company’s diverse set of businesses and then moved to Singapore to assume Asia-wide positions for two GE units.

Mr. Frisbie returned to the United States in 2000, joining the trade consulting practice established by former Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP. Four years later he returned to USCBC as president.

His China background includes mergers and acquisitions, commercial negotiations, operating best practices and execution, strategy development, trade and investment consulting, policy analysis and advocacy, U.S. and PRC government relations, and media relations. He has spoken at numerous conferences and events; written articles for the China Business Review, USCBC’s digital magazine; and has been published in other outlets such as the Financial Times, Current History, and the Journal of Commerce. He has also been extensively quoted in articles in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Caixin, among other publications.

Direct download: Frisbie_USCBC_Interview_Mono.mp3
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Direct download: Shieh_Podcast_Jul_2016.mp3
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