Since the start of its post-Mao reforms in the late 1970s, the communist regime in China has repeatedly defied predictions of its impending demise. The key to its success lies in what one might call “authoritarian adaptation”—the use of policy reforms to substitute for fundamental institutional change.
It is clear by now that China’s economy is set to slow in the years to come, although economists disagree about how much and for how long. Last year, the country’s GDP growth rate fell to 7.4 percent, the lowest in almost a quarter century, and many expect that figure to drop further in 2015. Plenty of countries struggle to grow at even this pace, but most don’t have to create hundreds of millions of jobs over the next decade, as China will.
In September 2008, when Chinese President Hu Jintao got word that Lehman Brothers, then the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, was on the verge of bankruptcy, he was traveling by van along the bumpy roads of Shaanxi Province. Surrounded by policy advisers and members of the Politburo, Hu asked them how China should respond to the inevitable spillover.
At a conference on the Chinese economy in 2012, Cai Fang, a demographer at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, issued a dire warning: “There’s now no doubt China will be old before it is rich.” He was expressing a view widely held by economists and China watchers. Over the past 65 years, life expectancy in China has more than doubled, from 35 years to roughly 75, as the fertility rate has plunged. Many fear that if these trends continue, China’s population will age faster than the country can accommodate.
Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today. To avoid catastrophe, we must dramatically reduce the carbon intensity of our modern energy systems, which have set us on a collision course with our planetary boundaries.
In this special edition, CFR.org Editor Robert McMahon, CFR's Director of Studies Jim Lindsay and Senior Fellow for Defense PolicyJanine Davidson start off the summer with a list of books that they will be reading in the weeks ahead. Listen in for recommendations from their reading lists.
What does it mean to be Chinese? A strong tradition in premodern China held that it meant thinking, behaving, and living in a society in accord with heaven-sanctioned principles exemplifying the best way to be human.
In a series of speeches he delivered shortly after taking office in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping cast corruption as not merely a significant problem for his country but an existential threat. Endemic corruption, he warned, could lead to “the collapse of the [Chinese Communist] Party and the downfall of the state.”
For all the tremendous change China has experienced in recent decades—phenomenal economic growth, improved living standards, and an ascent to great-power status—the country has made little progress when it comes to the treatment of its ethnic minorities, most of whom live in China’s sparsely populated frontier regions.
Until recently, most Europeans believed that their post–Cold War security order held universal appeal and could be a model for the rest of the world. This conviction was hardly surprising, since Europe has often played a central role in global affairs. For much of the last three centuries, European order was world order—a product of the interests, ambitions, and rivalries of the continent’s empires.
Two months from now, the U.S. Congress may shutter a government agency that, in the past six years, has supported more than 1.3 million American jobs and generated more than $2 billion in deficit-reducing profits.
At a 2013 conference held by The Economist in New York, business and policy leaders debated whether talented university graduates should join Google or Goldman Sachs. Vivek Wadhwa, a serial entrepreneur, spoke up for Google. “Would you rather have your children engineering the financial system [and] creating more problems for us, or having a chance of saving the world?” he asked.
Nearly a century after it first emerged in Egypt, political Islam is redefining the Muslim world. Also called Islamism, this potent ideology holds that the billion-strong global Muslim community would be free and great if only it were pious—that is, if Muslims lived under state-enforced Islamic law, or sharia, as they have done for most of Islamic history.
In the beginning, drones were almost exclusively the province of militaries. At first little more than remote-controlled model planes used in the World War I era, military drones advanced steadily over the decades, eventually becoming sophisticated tools that could surveil battlefield enemies from the sky. Today, the terms “drone” and “unmanned aircraft system” denote a vehicle that navigates through the air from point A to point B and is either remotely controlled or flies autonomously.
Starting with the Soviets’ launch of Sputnik in 1957, early space missions were funded exclusively by national governments, and for good reason: going to space was astronomically expensive. Setting up a successful space program meant making major investments in expertise and infrastructure, along with tolerating a great deal of risk—which only the superpowers could do.
housands of years ago, agriculture began as a highly site-specific activity. The first farmers were gardeners who nurtured individual plants, and they sought out the microclimates and patches of soil that favored those plants. But as farmers acquired scientific knowledge and mechanical expertise, they enlarged their plots, using standardized approaches—plowing the soil, spreading animal manure as fertilizer, rotating the crops from year to year—to boost crop yields.
One of the most persistent challenges of U.S. national security policy is balancing the short-term benefits of secrecy with the long-term benefits of openness. Government agencies responsible for dealing with national security threats will often be more effective if they are allowed to keep certain details about their activities secret.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that the United States has responded inadequately to the rise of Chinese power and recommend placing less strategic emphasis on the goal of integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2014 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »