When the Ebola epidemic burst onto the public health scene several years ago, most researchers around the world responded in the typical way: by racing to find a vaccine, cure or other solution to claim the discovery as their own. Even though many researchers were working on the same problem, the proprietary nature of science as it is practiced today prevented communication and working together towards a common goal. Several public health researchers believe that this unwillingness to cooperate slowed the rate of research, leading to many unnecessary deaths before health initiatives could be developed. Motivated by the relative failure of the response to Ebola, the international scientific community-in a unprecedented move- selflessly cooperated to find answers to Zika. The free, open databases of Zika research and posting of papers before publication in journals led to quickened development of public health initiatives to reduce the spread of Zika. This likely saved hundreds- if not thousands- of infants who might have otherwise been born with Congenital Zika Syndrome. This relatively unseen cooperation in the scientific community can also be applied in a Sino-US context, where the most pressing common public health issue is not Zika, but the devastating effects of air pollution on human health.
From Lanzhou to Los Angeles, smog clouds cause respiratory and cardiovascular illness in even the healthiest of the cities’ residents. Recently, components of air pollution have even been linked to defects in infants whose mothers were exposed to high levels of smog- these defects can range from serious low birth weights to cardiac defects that follow these infants for life. Of course, a perfect solution to pollution-related health issues would be to remove air pollution altogether. While environmental scientists in the US and China are working to make this a reality, biomedical researchers in both countries should work together to devise preventions and treatments for pollution’s effects on human health in the meantime.
Chinese culture is well-known for the ways in which traditional ideologies permeate society, notably Confucianism. However, over time, China has faced modernization and industrialization, particularly in an economic boom and political power. Yet, the immense growth and development in the political and economic spheres puts a strain on the social and cultural values that still remain in society. To some, Confucianism is outdated and a philosophy of the past. To others, Confucianism is an integral part of society that is the foundation for all of China’s successes, and deserves to be integrated into modernity.
Gender and sexuality are just a few topics in conflict with the dichotomy of the past and the present. Confucian values center around order and hierarchy, particularly in the home. The husband and father is the most well-respected at the top of the hierarchy, and even in the event of his death, the eldest son would become the head of the family, before the wife and mother. Even the Chinese language persists the conception of male dominance. In phrases involving man and woman, such as “男女平等“ or “夫妻”, the character for man is always placed first.
Yet the hierarchy is not the only aspect of society in which women were placed below men. Women were expected to maintain the household and prepare meals. From the tenth through the twentieth centuries, women were also expected to bind their feet, an excruciating process to make women daintier and more feminine. Not only was this incredibly painful and dangerous to the physical health of women, but it also made it very difficult to move without the aid of others – presumably, men. While foot binding is no longer a widespread practice, it was still a cultural phenomenon throughout much of China’s revolutionizing and modernity. At some point, it became imperative to let go of harmful tradition, and allow women to become members of society.
The early to mid twentieth century was also marked by the “New Woman” movement, which in conjunction with the May Fourth Movement and a revolutionary fever that infected many of China’s youth paved the way for a shift in gender roles. Women were encouraged to pursue their academic goals and embrace their sexuality. This was a particularly evident movement in literature and the arts. Authors such as Ding Ling exposed the inner-workings of a woman’s mind at the time, specifically in works such as “Miss Sophia’s Diary” that was published in the 1920s and explored a woman’s love triangle. Other literary works represent somewhat of a splice between the old and the new – where women are pursuing their own passions and education while men still often have lingering expectations and thoughts of past gender roles.
The aforementioned examples represent ways Confucianism has permeated gender roles in China. With the advent of the “New Woman” in the mid-twentieth century, Chinese society began to pave the way for more gender equality – however, Confucian values still cast a shadow on modern day gender roles.
As an increasingly global power, China’s reputation matters. However, despite greater visibility in recent years, China’s soft power strategy to improve its image and support for its policies amongst Americans is华而不实 -- showy but ultimately unsuccessful. Given the political climate in which China is often blamed (not always rightly) for a slew of American economic and diplomatic challenges, China improve its standing by increasing transparency, bolstering its commitment to two-way exchanges, and ensuring freedom of expression.
Soft power has been an integral part of China’s national rejuvenation since the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2007. In his keynote address, Hu Jintao stated that "Culture has become a more and more important source of national cohesion and creativity and a factor of growing significance in the competition in overall national strength." Since that time, China’s visibility in the US has exploded. From Anchorage to Miami, there are now 462 Confucius Institutes and Classrooms across the country (more than 40% of the world total). Lunar New Year celebrations are now commonplace, China Daily can be picked up at any street corner, and every town seems to have a Sichuan-style restaurant. Even paragons of American culture are becoming Sinocized: The Waldorf-Astoria hotel was purchased by Anbang Insurance Group, Alibaba became the darling of Wall Street with its record-breaking IPO, and Hollywood hits like Transformers are set, filmed, and marketed in the Middle Kingdom.
That said, this obsession with flashy outputs—rather than outcomes—camouflages the deeper suspicions that Americans have towards China, underscoring the weakness of the PRC’s soft power strategy. According to the most recent Pew Global Survey, only 37% of Americans view China favorably. Many of the outputs that China calls successes are viewed warily by the average American due to a fundamental difference in values. For example, China Daily and CCTV America are seen as government mouthpieces, Confucius Institutes have stoked debate about academic freedom, Chinese foreign direct investment by state-owned enterprises or politically-connected firms raise eyebrows about strategic intentions, and greater Chinese involvement in producing movies has led to fears of censorship. Moreover, regular news stories about human rights abuses, cyberattacks, the Great Firewall, and territorial disputes further mar China’s image in the minds of many Americans.
These fears are not entirely unfounded. For its part, China can improve its standing among the American people by making three changes to its soft power strategy. First, it must encourage greater transparency about government ties to businesses, media outlets, and cultural organizations in the US while also assuring the American public that it has no ulterior intentions. Second, since personal relationships are critical for forging cross-cultural collaboration and mutual understanding, China must increase its already-laudable commitment to two-way exchange programs by increasing funds for Americans and Chinese to visit each other’s countries. Finally, the most difficult but profound change is to give artists, musicians, and writers more room to create and innovate. In practice, this means ensuring the freedom of expression, even if it runs against the Party line. Works that are open and honest, as opposed to blatantly propagandistic, resonate well with American audiences (look no further than the art of Ai Weiwei or Liu Cixin’s Three-Body trilogy). Only by affirming these shared values, China can build more trust, increase its standing in the US, and fully realize its goal to form a “new type of great power relationship.”
The recent commitment in China for a switch to renewable energy sources shows their dedication to dominating the renewable energy market. Their new deal, which promises to dedicate $360 billion dollars to renewable energy, leaves the United States behind in terms of development, preparation for future generations, and economic gains. While China realizes that federal policies are a definite way to steer the country towards these profitable changes, the US is too busy debating over climate change to consider the economic benefits of switching to renewable energy sources. China is not as much concerned with potential environmental benefits of this deal, as they are aiming to dominate one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In addition, renewable energy creates millions of jobs. For example, this new deal in China is estimated to create over 13 million jobs in the country. On the other hand, the US is preoccupied with further development of the oil industry. This is illogical from many standpoints. As an environmentalist, the most obvious issues with coal mining that I have are the incredible negative effects on the environment. Aside from climate change, which is arguably the most detrimental but also the most controversial issue in the US, there are massive amounts of pollution caused from coal. In addition, coal mining is very dangerous for the workers. However, coal mining is also becoming a more technologically-dominated industry. This means that if you are working at a coal plant, it is very dangerous, and if you are not, it is probably because your job was taken because technology is much cheaper, faster, and more reliable. In both cases, coal mining is bad for the job market, which is why the argument for keeping coal is a very weak one. While China’s new deal highlights the stubbornness of the US, it also has the potential to create change here. If it is successful, it will create a framework for the US to follow when we eventually must finally make the switch. However, we will be even more behind when that day comes, which is why sooner is definitely better in this case.
Science and technology have always played a role in driving society forward. Nations have contributed various innovations to mankind throughout history. Historically, China offered the world the Four Great Inventions, the compass, gunpowder, paper-making, and printing. China’s dominance in technology waned for centuries; however, along with China’s current growing presence on the world stage, its scientific endeavours have also grown in prominence. China invests more into research and development relative to the European Union, and produces more research publications than any other country besides the United States. Many of the nation’s scientific endeavours have made international news, ranging from the Fast radio telescope to implementation of CRISPR edited white blood cells in cancer patients. Historically a scientific powerhouse, China is on track to reclaiming its edge on scientific innovation.
However, China’s emergence into to global scientific community is not without fault. China notably lacks international cooperation and pressure for scientists to publish has lowered the quality of published material in certain cases. Researchers in China lack certain tools researchers in other countries take for granted, such as Google Scholar. While China’s president, Xi Jinping, has called for freedom for scientists to research their own topics, it is yet to be seen whether the Chinese government’s favour towards translational research eases back to allow researchers greater flexibility. While China’s increased scientific capabilities certainly grants greater research to be conducted inside the country, enhanced international cooperation may enable it to utilize global talent in addition to its own.
Enhanced international cooperation may prove beneficial to China as it seeks to become a leader in the scientific community. From an international relations perspective, international scientific collaboration has historically been proven to strengthen ties between countries as seen in the European Union. Furthermore, international cooperation enables scientist to access technology and data not available in their own country, allowing nations to strategically invest scientific funding. Prominent Chinese scientists are calling for expanded international cooperation. For instance, Professor Wang Yifang, director of the Institute of High Energy Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, stated, “I think for all the disciplines, international collaboration is always very important,” and “If they are less open to an international community, I think they have less chance to be the leader.” International scientific cooperation offers many possibilities to China, however, China must look inward and determine whether the State wants to offer its scientists the independence and freedom to do so.
During the 30 years after China’s Economic Reform and Open-up, China’s economic growth has kept on a high level and China has already become one of the middle income countries. However, in 2015, China’s economy entered a new phase with the combined effects of a series of factors such as the decrease of demographic dividend, accumulation of middle income traps and the changes in the international relations.
For one thing, the mismatch between the supply and demand has become the biggest obstacle to constant economic growth of China. The redundant capacity makes it difficult for China’s economy to reform. Moreover, the excessive supply of low-end products and insufficient supply of high-end products reduce China’s supply-side efficiency severely. For another, other structural problems such as improper industry structures, investment structures and income distribution structures are limiting China’s further economic expansion.
In 2015, President Xi proposed the Supply-side Structural Reform to deal with the problems mentioned above accordingly. China’s Supply-side Structural Reform can be summarized in five aspects.
To begin with, the first task is to cut overcapacity. Those outdated enterprises with low efficiency will be eliminated by the market and will no longer obtain assistance from the government. In this way, the unfavorable situation where malign competition caused by excessive supply can be relieved.
The second task is destocking, which can be explained in two ways. In a narrow sense, destocking means to decrease stock of product, which can be realized relatively quickly. In a broader sense, destocking also includes solving the problem of overinvestment and deficient consumption, which might require a much longer period.
The third task is deleverage. After the 2008 global financial crisis, the authorities of Chinese government attach greater importance to the prevention of systemic financial risks. In recent years, regulations in the financial industry become much stricter than ever. For example, according to the guidance of China’s central bank, People’s Bank of China, commercial banks have tightened up mortgage policy to discourage speculation in the real estate market. The principle of China is that finance is used to serve the real economy.
The fourth task is to reduce enterprises’ cost. To improve the competence of Chinese enterprises in the world, China has come up with several methods to help enterprises cut their costs. For example, in May 1st, 2016, China reformed its tax system and changed all the business tax into value-added tax, which solves the problem of repetitive taxing and relieves the tax burden of enterprises, leading to more dynamic Chinese enterprises.
The last but equally important task is to improve weak links. Although China has made obvious progress in the past several decades, but China is well aware that as a development country, it still has a lot of weak links to fix, such as urban-rural income gap, regional differences and incomplete policies. Currently, China is approaching such problems appropriately.
Amid the fears of confrontation in the South China Sea, weakening ties between Beijing and Pyongyang, and the uncertain future of the US’ "One China Policy", Chinese involvement in Africa seems to be the last issue on anyone’s mind. Yet over the last decade, China’s economic role on the continent has quietly grown to compete with traditional investors such as the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. As the Chinese government takes on an increasingly global role, they should be careful not to contribute to the same injustices that Western countries have created.
China has found a number of ways to gain influence through economic diplomacy. Foreign direct investment (FDI), in which Chinese firms finance projects overseas, involves a broad array of industries, from mining and manufacturing to the service sector. FDI can be a win-win situation for both investors and recipients, as emerging economies get the capital they need to grow and investors get a return on their risk. Since smaller Chinese firms and individuals act as investors, they are able to compete with European and American sources of funding to provide the most beneficial terms for countries that receive capital. As much as Chinese foreign direct investment could provide mutual gain, however, China contributes only 4% of total FDI in Africa, remaining far behind the European Union and the United States.
Instead of gaining influence through mutually beneficial foreign direct investment, China has offered Africa with a more one-sided relationship with the Beijing government. Angola and Nigeria, hit hard by low oil prices starting in 2014, saw this tactic firsthand. While FDI to the two oil-rich countries saw a sharp decline, China offered oil-backed loans to the Angolan and Nigerian governments. Although the loans were attractive at shoring up deficits in the near term, China’s terms demanded that Angola sell oil at a low price in order to pay back the loans on schedule. China received interest on the loans, while Angola suffered.
The US, UK, and France have a dark history of exploiting Africa for their own economic gain, and China cannot take the same route as it emerges as a global power. By issuing commodity-backed loans to countries that have few other places to turn for financing, China is able to set the terms and exert its political will at the expense of recipient nations. Foreign direct investment, with competition among investors that allows developing countries to negotiate, offers a route for China to grow economically, gain political credibility, and benefit African countries at the same time.
The relations between the United States of America and China changed dramatically in the 20th century, as a result of a needed military collaboration to prevent drastic world changes, and later on as an outcome of an ideological war. However, the most recent and significant cause of the changing relations strategies is the economical aspect. During the last four decades, the total U.S.-China trade rose from $2 billion in 1979 to $562 billion in 2013. De-industrialization in the United States and industrialization and urbanization in China have allowed China to emerge as one of the world’s biggest workshops, despite still lagging technically far behind some leading industrial countries. Both countries have attached great political importance to their economic relations. From the Chinese government’s standpoint, bilateral trade and foreign investment have been crucial for China’s modernization and international stature. For its part, the United States, while strengthening its trade with China, has repeatedly subjected economic activity involving China—including trade, investment and finance—to national security and moral constraints. Despite these and other contentious issues, the two governments have emphasized their economic collaboration and mutual benefits, and trade relations have expanded rapidly, producing the world’s most robust trade relationship.
At the same time, China and the United States, as the two leading trading nations, share responsibility for the current state of global trade and finance and the unsettled post–World War II order in the Asia-Pacific. China’s absorption into the American-led economic orbit has set the stage for the next phase of development in the twenty-first century. But while in the past the client economies of the United States were small, China today is a giant and growing satellite. Despite growing commercial ties, the bilateral economic relationship has become increasingly complex and often fraught with tension. From the U.S. perspective, many trade tensions stem from China’s incomplete transition to a free market economy. While China has significantly liberalized it’s economic and trade regimes over the past three decades, it continues to maintain (or has recently imposed) a number of state-directed policies that appear to distort trade and investment flows. Many U.S. policy makers argue that such policies negatively impact U.S. economic interests and have contributed to U.S. job losses.
The choice of the United States on how to address commercial and trade disputes with China will be crucial, as the U.S. and China are the world's two largest economies, and the relations between them are crucial to the future development of the world economy. The upcoming administration of President Donald Trump seems to be against trade and cooperation with China, and this might have significant consequences on their economies and the global economy.
Mao Ze Dong’s Great Leap Forward was supposed to bring China to the industrial level of Great Britain and the United States within five years; it proved overambitious and disastrous. Within China, Xi Jin Ping’s One Belt One Road Plan (一带一路) has recently became a rather hot topic in Chinese politics; however, President Xi has made nothing the sort of Mao-type promise about the miracles these roads will pave. Simply put, president Xi has publicly been rather conservative, why is that?
Although some commentators believe the project may help create Chinese and Central Asian economic growth; and more important, will signal a shift in China’s international relations towards focus in Central Asia, President Xi has been prudent not to raise these sorts of expectations…wisely so. Given the project’s complexity and the inexperience of the central Asian countries involved in infrastructure development, One Belt One Road may in reality lose money for China and the Central Asian countries involved. Furthermore, one may doubt the utility of allies in Central Asia.
In reality, One Belt One Road at its core is a practical move by President Xi to ensure China’s energy security and solidify support of the Chinese Military. The new infrastructure lanes from One Belt One Road through Central and South Asia will provide China with oil and other supply if trade in the South China Sea is cut off in the case of South China Sea territorial disputes or a conflict with the United States over Taiwan. The real power of backup oil supply is not just to help in the case China goes to war; it is a tremendous signal towards Taiwan and countries with claim in the South China Sea that the People’s Republic of China is prepared for war and maritime blockades. The extra supply lanes provided by the One Belt One Road project will no doubt increase China’s negotiating power over countries with claims in the South China Sea and help intimidate Taiwanese politicians.
It is important to note why it is so important for China to defend claims to the Nine Dashed Line in the South China Sea and oversee the incorporation of Taiwan. Since the communists came to power in China, it has been a point of political propaganda to underscore that both Taiwan and the South China Sea belong to the PRC and are a part of China’s historical and national identity. In the eyes of many Chinese, the legitimacy of the Communist party is underpinned by its ability to incorporate Taiwan and lay claim to the South China Sea. In this sense, One Belt One Road is instrumental to maintaining the party’s legitimacy, especially as the country heads towards an economic slowdown and deals with increasing income inequality.
As President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign will win him legitimacy among the Chinese people, so will President Xi’s One Belt One Road policy win him legitimacy in the Chinese Communist Party. Unlike the legendary Mao ZeDong and Deng XiaoPing, President Xi lacks the revolutionary and hero-like aura in the party, and particularly the military, that Mao and Deng had. By overhauling this vast strategic project, he will likely win support from leaders in the People’s Liberation Army, which his predecessors Mao and Deng understood well when they respectively launched the Cultural Revolution and the bloody crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen protests. By increasing China’s ability to economically withstand a war in the South China Sea or a blockade of trade, the leaders of the People’s Liberation Army will certainly gain more influence in the party, and be grateful to their patron, Xi Jinping.
One Belt One Road is the policy of CPC maverick Xi JinPing to win support within the party. It will surely provide a supply lifeline for China in the case of war, and will enhance China’s ability to negotiate in the South China Sea and over Taiwan. Although One Belt One Road may become a catalyst for open relations, soft power, and more economic growth as many hope, only time can tell if these less pragmatic concerns will solidify. As One Belt One Road solidifies Xi’s position as the paramount leader of the CPC, he will gain the power and legitimacy to make his Chinese Dream come true.
As a consequence China’s one-child policy, its aging population as a percentage of its total population has grown significantly in the past decade, and will continue to do so. With this demographic shift comes new pressures on China’s health care system, additional costs related to aging, a shrinking population percentage available to engage in industry and work, and a noticeable cultural transition in the beliefs and practices surrounding the care for aging relatives. In many ways, the US currently faces similar challenges with its own aging population, although its demographic shift began in earlier decades and lacks the suddenness of China’s aging crisis. The implications of an aging crisis for both nations stretches far beyond caring for the elderly, as it impacts national budgets, necessitates readjusting national health care priorities and systems, and causes changes in the labor force.
In China, the national government has begun supporting practices and customs that sustain or improve the health of its aging population. One example is square dancing (广场舞), which is a popular practice among many female retirees in China in which women gather in public places, such as open squares or parks, to play popular music on a small speaker and dance to simple choreographed routines that can be learned online. The phenomenon, which is particularly prevalent in urban areas, began in the mid-1990s as older women in contemporary China moved into retirement. Square dancing quickly emerged as a popular to way to keep occupied, meet other retired women, and stay healthy through exercise. In this way, square dancing provides a source of exercise and socialization for a population who found themselves with a lack of stimulation and social interactions after retirement. Participation has been shown to have substantial benefits for participants’ mental and physical health.
Recently, government support for the practice in China has expanded to government-commissioned choreography and recommendations encouraging local administrators to provide or build facilities where women can dance. These actions demonstrate that the Chinese government recognizes the importance of the phenomenon to the health and livelihood of China’s rapidly growing elderly population, and that it understands that supporting local community practices can have a widespread positive effect on China’s expanding aging cohort. With an increasing amount of research outlining the empirical benefits of square dancing, it has become clear that support for practices similar practices could lead to an improvement in the management of China’s transition to an older population.
Similar to China, support for programs that could sustain both physical and mental health among the elderly population in the US could positively influence many aspects of national strength, especially since the US currently spends a significant amount of funds on health care for the elderly. China and the US should evaluate China’s support of square dancing as a model for preventionist, cost-effective programs for health care that have the potential to shift government energy and money away from aging populations and instead to other areas of national concern.
CLS Digest 2017
Find here selected essays from the Duke-UNC CLS 2017 applications written by delegates!