The newly revitalized Shanghai Foreign Correspondents’ Club (facebook link) has been organizing some interesting and useful events lately, thanks to a new board.
It invited Kerry Brown, a scholar (now a fellow at the think tank Chatham House in the UK, though he has even lectured at Inner Mongolia University), former diplomat and now author of a new book on our favorite subject, for a talk at Arch on Changshu Lu. It’s called Struggling Giant: China in the 21st Century, and it’s published by Anthem Press.
The venue was rather cramped, but the talk went well – Brown made a few very good points about China from an outside observer’s point of view. We’ll be running an interview with him soon about his ideas on China. Here are some key points from his Shanghai FCC talk:
-China’s strategy of inviting foreign investment was primarily to facilitate technology and knowledge transfer; this has failed, so FDI is now no longer the yardstick the central government uses for provinces
-Foreigners tend to look at China in an ahistorical way, despite the country’s long history and attendant baggage
-NGOs are increasingly tolerated by the government as a way to help plug holes in a tattered social safety net
-Beijing’s control over the provinces is brittle – it can snap quickly and “the whole thing could fall apart tomorrow,” he said
-There’s no clear candidate for the top job when the Party Congress convenes this autumn, unlike previous leadership transitions
-What keeps Hu Jintao up at night? Not economic stability; not human rights and foreign government criticism. He’s worried about income disparities, including the great underclass of 200 million migrant workers, who are disenfranchised in almost every way. And since there’s no democracy, no one really knows what in the world they are thinking.