The articles in this edition of China Currents shed light on some major economic and political challenges to China’s continuing transformation and development, both by examining specific issues and by reflecting on Chinese history.
Michael Wenderoth looks at the hot topic of innovation in China, which some regard as essential for China’s continued advancement. Wenderoth argues that Western companies shouldn’t focus on innovation of specific projects, but rather adopt “design thinking.” Paul Foster turns to Chinese politics and demonstrates how Xi Jinping is adapting hip-hop culture in an effort to consolidate power and expand China’s soft power propaganda outreach. John Garver, in the first of two articles, analyzes a line of historical interpretation that some in China are using to justify the notion that China should become the world’s dominant power. As the argument goes, China at one time dominated the known world through its tributary system and therefore should “rule the world” again. Garver unpacks a scholarly discussion suggesting that the idea of Chinese domination through the tributary system may be a myth, which, if true, would undercut the aforementioned intellectual argument for China’s resuming its rightful role in the world. Garver also reviews a book by noted China scholar David Shambaugh, who argues the case of reformers in China who see Xi Jinping’s retreat from marketization and clampdown on political and media expression as a mistake. Shambaugh, Garver writes, argues for a broad loosening of Party control in the economy, as well as in political and social life. Finally, China Currents Managing Editor Penny Prime interviews veteran journalist Mike Chinoy, who has produced a 12-episode documentary called Assignment China, featuring correspondents who worked in China from 1945 to 2015. It makes for compelling reading for anyone interested in how we get information about China.