Interview

by Malcolm Riddell

4

4 | The Shanghai Paradoxes

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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Founder of CHINADebate

&
July 25, 2021
4 | The Shanghai Paradoxes
4 | The Shanghai Paradoxes
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Paradox: site where the CCP was founded, flanked by modern Shanghai skyscrapers.

Cheng Li

Director, Brookings Institution, John L. Thornton China Center

4

BIG IDEA |Middle-Class Shanghai actually reveals China's unsettled future because Shanghai embodies what I call two tales of a city. Now in my view, Shanghai was, is, and will be paradoxical.’

Malcolm Riddell: ‘Your book is Middle-Class Shanghai, but that's a lot like saying middle-class New York. Why did you choose Shanghai as the focal point of your analysis for China’s middle-class?’

Cheng Li: ‘The rapid emergence and explosive growth of the Chinese middle-class is one of the world’s most stunning developments.’

  • ‘At the heart of this story is Shanghai.’
  • ‘Nowhere in China has this new socioeconomic force been more transformative — and more intriguing — than in this pace-setting city.’

‘The dynamism and diversity of middle-class Shanghai challenge the caricature of the People’s Republic of China as a burgeoning hegemon with a Communist apparatus set on disseminating its singular ideology and development model.’

  • ‘China today, as exemplified and led by Shanghai, is also a crucible of change driven by a growing middle-class.’

‘Middle-Class Shanghai also reveals China's unsettled future because Shanghai embodies what I call two tales of a city.’

  • ‘Now in my view, Shanghai was, is, and will be paradoxical. Consider these three paradoxes:

First, the 'was' paradox: 'Historically, Shanghai was the most westernized Chinese city.’

  • ‘But it was also the birthplace of the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, and the center of Maoist radicalism during the Cultural Revolution (during which myself, as a young boy and also my family suffered a great deal).’

Second, the 'is' paradox: 'Today, Shanghai is often regarded as the frontier city of market reform, opening up, and indeed cosmopolitanism.’

  • ‘But, at the same time, the city is also what the Chinese call the head of a dragon in China's industrial policy and also state capitalism.’

Third, the 'will be' paradox: 'In the future, Shanghai can serve as the vanguard of a middle-class of worldly voices, views, and the values.’

  • ‘But the city may increasingly become the showcase of China's growing nationalism and the mercantilist global outreach, driven by a growing middle-class.’

‘My point here is that we should place Shanghai's future and China's future in an ever-changing domestic and international context.’

  • ‘It is neither predetermined nor stagnant.’
  • ‘Shanghai is not a monolithic entity, and certainly China is not either.’

‘China today, as exemplified and led by Shanghai, is also a crucible of change driven by a growing middle-class.’

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Interview

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Malcolm Riddell
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Cheng Li
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Brookings
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1

1 | 'Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping U.S.-China Engagement' by Cheng Li

‘Among the many forces shaping China's domestic transformation and its role on the world stage, none may prove more significant than the rapid emergence and explosive growth of the Chinese middle-class.’
7/25/2021

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Cheng Li
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How China's Middle-Class China is Transforming China and the World

‘Among the many forces shaping China's domestic transformation and its role on the world stage, none may prove more significant than the rapid emergence and explosive growth of the Chinese middle-class.’
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CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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Cheng Li
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2

2 | ‘My Humble Effort’

‘My book, Middle Class Shanghai, is a humble effort to provide a different angle, based the cultural and the educational fronts, from the perspective of shared middle-class lifestyles, aspirations, concerns, and values.’
7/25/2021

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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Cheng Li
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Brookings
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3

3 | The ‘Haipai’ - ‘Jingpai’ Divide

‘Just as New York and Washington are profoundly different from each other, the same can be said about Shanghai and Beijing.’
7/25/2021

CHINADebate

Malcolm Riddell
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CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings
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|
4

4 | The Shanghai Paradoxes

‘Middle-Class Shanghai actually reveals China's unsettled future because Shanghai embodies what I call two tales of a city. Now in my view, Shanghai was, is, and will be paradoxical.’
7/25/2021

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Malcolm Riddell
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CHINADebate

Cheng Li
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Brookings
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|
5

5 | 'It is premature to say that engagement has failed.'

‘It is premature to conclude that the U.S. engagement policy with China under the eight presidents prior to the Trump administration has failed.’
7/25/2021

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CHINADebate

Tony Saich
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Harvard Kennedy School of Government
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Five Themes that Point to Where the Chinese Communist Party & China are Heading

As the Chinese Communist Party begins its second century, it’s useful to identify enduring patterns that might aid us in understanding China today and the directions it might be heading.
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Tony Saich
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Harvard Kennedy School of Government
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From Rebel to Ruler: One Hundred Years of the Chinese Communist Party by Tony Saich

‘In our discussions, you've identified five themes that have been more or less consistent throughout the history of the party but have oscillated between different points on a continuum:’
7/1/2021

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'Forget about China': Clyde Prestowitz

Clyde Prestowitz has influenced U.S. foreign trade and investment policy for many decades, both inside and outside government.
6/13/2021

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Malcolm Riddell
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CHINADebate

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'Regime change in China is not only possible, it is imperative.'

‘We must make regime change in China the highest goal of our strategy towards that country.’ ‘The US and its allies cannot dictate to China the political system by which it is governed. But they can and must engineer conditions which embolden and enable those in China who also want regime change to achieve it.’
5/15/2021

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Mike Lampton
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School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University (SAIS)
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'Rivers of Iron': Changing the Face of Asia

‘But what's happened now is that Southeast Asia is rich enough to contemplate such infrastructure and that the Chinese have the technology, money, and high-speed rail industry so that they can both finance or help finance and build it.’
10/7/2020

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Shang-Jin Wei
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Columbia University
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Why China's Economy is Growing Faster than Others

‘First is China's relatively aggressive and decisive measures on the COVID public health crisis itself that managed to get the pandemic under control much faster than the other large economies.’ ‘The relative success in controlling the pandemic translates into how much people are willing to go back to their normal lives, to their jobs, and the like.’
8/27/2020

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Joerg Wuttke
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European Union Chamber of Commerce in China
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The Chinese Communist Party Fears Ending Up Like the Soviet Union

‘The propaganda ministry - within four to six weeks - managed to turn China into a problem for Europeans. China’s standing in Europe is eroding by the day.'
5/20/2020

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Malcolm Riddell
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CHINADebate

Tony Saich
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Harvard Kennedy School of Government
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The Party is Infallible

'The Hong Kong demonstrations can never be because of policy mistakes by the Communist Party itself.’ During our interview, Tony Saich of the Harvard Kennedy School told me: ‘Hong Kong, with its responses to the demonstrations, and the Coronavirus are both illustrative examples of how the culture of the Communist Party and the traditions it's built up over almost a hundred years reflect the way it behaves when it's confronted by certain crises.’
5/13/2020

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Craig Allen
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U.S.-China Business Council
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The Phase One Trade Deal

‘The good news is that 80% of our members said they thought the Phase One agreement was a good thing.' 'But only 19% said it was worth it.' 'What the 80% said they are happy about was that there no more new tariffs were coming immediately.’
5/6/2020

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Malcolm Riddell
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Bonnie Glaser
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Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
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South China Sea & Taiwan

'It would not be accurate to say China claims the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territory because the Chinese are unclear about what exactly their claim is and what it is based on.'
5/2/2020

CHINADebate

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Tom Barkin
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Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond
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Why Inflation Should Not Be A Problem

‘This is a crisis where the first chair is held by the public health officials, and the second chair is held by the fiscal authorities. We at the Fed have the freedom to be able to move relatively quickly, but we're the third chair here, trying to help out where we can.’
4/29/2020

CHINADebate

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Bill Overholt
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Harvard Asia Center
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China, America, & the 'Jaws Syndrome'

‘Both Trump and Xi have a fundamental political divide problem that the COVID-19 epidemic has exposed and made more apparent – and made substantially worse.’
4/25/2020