Exploiting Sino-Russian Nuclear Divergence

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As the United States begins its latest push to acquire next-generation nuclear weapons, the Kremlin has responded in lockstep by increasing its own nuclear arsenal and pressing Washington on arms control. China holds back and instead chooses to stick to conventional military forces and gaining global influence through soft power. China, considerably more competitive than Russian economically and diplomatically, is preoccupied by the nuclear buildup on its own border by North Korea and how that might expand. Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, explains that the United States could use this divergence to its own strategic advantage. Weitz argues that the United States has an opportunity to include China in US-Russian nuclear arms control negotiations, which could lead to Russia pressuring China from enlarging Beijing’s nuclear offensive capabilities. — YaleGlobal

Asian Values

Power and values: A Rohingya survivor of genocide in Myanmar pleads for food, and Hungary’s rightwing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán finds common cause with China’s Premier Li Keqiang

Countries that join together through multilateral organizations, whether the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the United Nations, must determine the values required for pursuit of common goals. Yet there is stark contrast between Asian and western values – with Asia generally focused on order and the collective interest and the West traditionally emphasizing democracy and individual rights. Asia’s many governments – caught between two rivals, China and the United States – could have some influence over which ideals prevail for the continent: “if Asia cannot define its values more clearly, it risks a replay of the Cold War, where it suffered in confrontation between superpowers with deeply opposing ideologies,” explains journalist and author Humphrey Hawksley. A charter on Asian values could provide guidance on a rising China, prevent polarization and reduce hypocrisy of democratic nations failing to respect human rights. A united and thoughtful voice would strengthen Asia. Hawksley urges the continent’s leaders to forge a path in articulating values that contribute to reducing tensions and increasing prosperity. – YaleGlobal

Rethinking Belt-and-Road Debt

Transport trouble: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticizes China’s “new colonialism” at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, and Chinese-built railway connects parts of Africa

More than 75 nations participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 to develop trade and connect Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe with ports, roads and railways. But some countries worry about adding to already heavy debt burdens, and some projects have become an issue in local politics. Among the most vocal critics is Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who has warned about a “new colonialism,” explains veteran journalist Philip Bowring. Mahathir questions infrastructure costs and strategic purposes relating to contentious issues like control over the South China Sea. Many emerging economies can certainly benefit from the infrastructure investment, explains Bowring, but cautious leaders also recognize the value of assessing project purposes and priorities. China, wanting to avoid heavy losses or criticism at home about wasteful spending, has launched a publicity campaign to promote benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative. – YaleGlobal

Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949 – 1989

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9/17 | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | Baker Hall, Room 434 | 100 Tower Parkway

The popularization of basic legal knowledge is an important and contested technique of state governance in China today. Its roots reach back to the early years of Chinese Communist Party rule. Legal Lessons tells the story of how the party-state attempted to mobilize ordinary citizens to learn laws during the early years of the Mao period (1949 –1976) and in the decade after Mao’s death.

Examining case studies such as the dissemination of the 1950 Marriage Law and successive constitutions since 1954 in Beijing and Shanghai, Legal Lessons traces the dissemination of legal knowledge at different levels of state and society. Archival records, internal publications, periodicals, advice manuals, memoirs, and colorful propaganda materials reveal how official attempts to determine and promote “correct” understanding of written laws intersected with people’s interpretations and practical experiences. They also show how diverse groups—including party-state leadership, legal experts, publishers, writers, artists, and local officials, along with ordinary people—helped to define the meaning of laws in China’s socialist society. Placing mass legal education and law propaganda at the center of analysis, Legal Lessons offers a new perspective on the sociocultural and political history of law in socialist China.

Jennifer Altehenger is a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Chinese History at King’s College London. She is the author of Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949 –1989 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018) and has also published on the history of propaganda production, information, lexicography, political satire, and on Communist China’s links to other socialist countries before 1989. Funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council leadership fellowship, her current work examines the social, economic, and cultural history of everyday material culture and industrial design in China after 1949.

Lunch will be served.