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Minxin Pei

Articles by Minxin Pei

Why China’s Hong Kong Crackdown Could Backfire

March 8, 2021

Chinese leaders are most likely already aware of the probable international consequences of pursuing an ultra-repressive course in Hong Kong. But by prosecuting 47 pro-democracy activists, President Xi Jinping is throwing down the gauntlet to a new US administration and its allies – and may be overplaying his hand.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – The year of the ox has begun darkly for the people of Hong Kong. On February 16, nine pro-democracy activists, including 82-year-old Martin Lee, the revered long-time leader of the city’s Democratic Party, went on trial facing charges of illegal assembly.

The COVID Bubble

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

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Biden, Xi, and the Evolution of Cooperation

February 2, 2021

The only way to prevent Sino-American relations from deteriorating further is for either US President Joe Biden or Chinese President Xi Jinping to offer a goodwill gesture, and then respond in kind to the other’s subsequent moves. And Xi appears better positioned to take the initiative.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – I don’t know whether US President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and their foreign-policy advisers have read Robert Axelrod’s classic  book on international relations,The Evolution of Cooperation. But they should heed Axelrod’s central insight about how countries can benefit from cooperation and punish cheating.

Can Cheap Countries Catch Up?


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China’s Fateful Year

January 14, 2021

US President-elect Joe Biden may have promised a “return to normalcy,” but the truth is that there is no going back. The world is changing in fundamental ways, and the actions the world takes in the next few years will be critical to lay the groundwork for a sustainable, secure, and prosperous future.
For more than 25 years, Project Syndicate has been guided by a simple credo: All people deserve access to a broad range of views by the world’s foremost leaders and thinkers on the issues, events, and forces shaping their lives. At a time of unprecedented uncertainty, that mission is more important than ever – and we remain committed to fulfilling it.
But there is no doubt that we, like so many other media organizations nowadays, are under growing strain. If you are in a

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China’s Pro-Monopoly Antitrust Crusade

December 31, 2020

China’s leaders are probably right that reining in the private sector will strengthen their grip on power in the short term. But, in the longer term, the biggest casualty of China’s “antitrust” crackdown may be the one monopoly it is meant to protect: the Communist Party’s lock on political power.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – The Chinese government’s newly launched antitrust probe into Alibaba is probably warranted. The e-commerce giant undoubtedly has a dominant market share and engages in monopolistic practices, such as forcing merchants to make the company their exclusive online distributor or be delisted from its platforms. But other Chinese e-commerce companies have the same rule, and there are worse monopolists in China than

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China’s Green Gambit

December 18, 2020

China’s ambitious climate pledges have drawn praise the world over. But China will demand a high price for its contributions and can be expected to use its promise of international cooperation to undermine any containment strategy that US President-elect Joe Biden’s administration tries to pursue.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Can US President-elect Joe Biden walk and chew gum at the same time? If walking is managing domestic pressures, and chewing gum is pursuing a balanced foreign policy, the answer is far from clear. The tension between bipartisan calls to contain China and the imperative of cooperating with Chinese President Xi Jinping on climate change is a case in point.

My Man of the Year

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A Roadmap for Stabilizing Sino-American Relations

November 25, 2020

Given the current bipartisan US antipathy toward China, President-elect Joe Biden is unlikely to change the fundamental tenets of President Donald Trump’s hard-line policy. But if Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping each invest a modest amount of political capital, they may be able to de-escalate bilateral tensions.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Devising an effective strategy to compete, cooperate, and co-exist with China will be one of US President-elect Joe Biden’s toughest foreign-policy challenges. And over the next two months, Sino-American relations are almost certain to get worse.

America’s Political Crisis and the Way Forward

PS OnPoint


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Trump’s Election Gift to China?

October 29, 2020

US President Donald Trump’s disastrous pandemic response and his alienation of America’s traditional allies have benefited China significantly. With American voters preparing to head to the polls on November 3, Trump seemingly has one more gift to give to Chinese President Xi Jinping: an election meltdown.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – For China, at least, US President Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. His calamitous response to the COVID-19 pandemic has made China, whose government mishandled the initial outbreak in January this year, look like an exemplar of effective governance. Moreover, Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has alienated traditional US allies, making it difficult to build a broad

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Japan’s Geopolitical Balancing Act Just Got Harder

September 17, 2020

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe managed to strike a delicate diplomatic balance between China and the United States. But as Sino-American tensions escalate, his successor, Yoshihide Suga, will find it increasingly difficult to avoid taking sides, especially on technology issues and security arrangements.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unexpected resignation last month for health reasons has raised many questions about the legacy of the country’s longest-serving premier. One of them is whether his successor, Yoshihide Suga, will be able to continue Abe’s geopolitical balancing act as tensions between China and the United States are continuing to escalate dangerously.

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Cultural Decoupling from China Will Hurt the US

August 18, 2020

The US government’s strategy of cutting cultural, educational, and journalistic ties with China is unwise and counterproductive. Such an approach not only plays into the Chinese government’s hands, but also harms vital US interests.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – “Decoupling” is central to the geopolitical duel between the United States and China. Conceived and promoted by hawks in US President Donald Trump’s administration, this strategy has now become America’s principal tool to weaken Chinese power.

Deconstructing Donald

PS OnPoint

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Master and the Prodigy


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China’s Deepening Geopolitical Hole

July 16, 2020

The UK’s decision to ban Huawei from its 5G networks is only the latest diplomatic setback for China. So, as China’s leaders ponder how to respond, they should heed the first rule of holes: when you are in one, stop digging.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – The United Kingdom’s decision to ban Huawei from its 5G networks has dealt a painful blow to China. Until recently, China was still counting on the UK to stick to its earlier decision to allow the Chinese telecom giant to supply non-core equipment for the country’s 5G networks.

Toward a New Fiscal Constitution

PS OnPoint

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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The Political Logic of China’s Strategic Mistakes

July 8, 2020

For the first time since the end of the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party of China faces a genuine existential threat, mainly because its mindset has led it to commit a series of calamitous strategic errors. And its latest intervention in Hong Kong suggests that it has no intention of changing course.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Some of the Chinese government’s recent policies seem to make little practical sense, with its decision to impose a national-security law on Hong Kong being a prime example. The law’s rushed enactment by China’s rubber-stamp National People’s Congress on June 30 effectively ends the “one country, two systems” model that has prevailed since 1997, when the city was returned from British to

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The End of Hong Kong?

June 16, 2020

For over a year, China has progressively tightened its grip on Hong Kong. Its latest move – the introduction of a new security law – may spell the death of the “one country, two systems,” and thus democracy and the rule of law in the city, but at what cost to the Communist Party of China?

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Chinese Diplomats Behaving Badly

June 9, 2020

At a time when China’s reputation is suffering and its relationship with the United States is in freefall, the country’s diplomats should be focused on differentiating China’s foreign policy from that of US President Donald Trump. Yet they are doing just the opposite.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Chinese diplomats have long had a reputation as well-trained, colorless, and cautious professionals who pursue their missions doggedly without attracting much unfavorable attention. But a new crop of younger diplomats are ditching established diplomatic norms in favor of aggressively promoting China’s self-serving COVID-19 narrative. It is called “wolf warrior” diplomacy – and it is backfiring.


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How the Hong Kong Calamity Will Play Out

May 25, 2020

By announcing a new security law for Hong Kong, China has effectively already brought an end to the era of "one country, two systems." And that means the worst is yet to come, as Chinese leaders’ efforts to enforce full political control over the city meet fierce local resistance.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – China’s decision to crack down on Hong Kong with a new security law has shocked the world. But to those who read the resolution issued last November by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, it comes as no surprise. In that document’s section pertaining to Hong Kong, the CPC signaled its intention to assert full control over the former British colony. Tighter national security laws and the

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China’s Misplaced Pandemic Propaganda

March 26, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, China has shifted its propaganda machine into high gear, in an effort to change the narrative about the virus’s origins and the Chinese response. But when this crisis is finally over, people will remember what China’s leaders did, not what they said.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Barely a month ago, China was in the grip of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Thousands of new infections were confirmed every day. Hospitals were overwhelmed. People were dying by the hundreds. People couldn’t leave their homes. But the government’s draconian lockdown seems to have worked: the outbreak now seems to be under control. And, apparently, China’s leaders have ignored its most essential lessons.

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Will the Coronavirus Topple China’s One-Party Regime?

March 4, 2020

In the post-Mao era, the Chinese people and Communist Party leaders have adhered to an implicit social contract: the people tolerate the party’s political monopoly, as long as the party delivers economic progress and adequate governance. The party’s poor handling of the COVID-19 outbreak has threatened this tacit pact.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – It may seem preposterous to suggest that the outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, has imperiled the rule of the Communist Party of China (CPC), especially at a time when the government’s aggressive containment efforts seem to be working. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the political implications of China’s biggest public-health crisis in recent history.

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The Coronavirus Is a Disease of Chinese Autocracy

January 28, 2020

When China’s leaders finally declare victory against the outbreak of the new and deadly coronavirus, they will undoubtedly credit the Communist Party of China’s leadership. But the truth is just the opposite: the party is again responsible for this calamity.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – An outbreak of a new coronavirus that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan has already infected over 4,000 people – mostly in China, but also in several other countries, from Thailand to France to the United States – and killed more than 100. Given China’s history of disease outbreaks – including of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and African swine fever – and officials’ apparent awareness of the need to strengthen their capacity to address

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Trump’s Gift to China

January 8, 2020

If anyone was celebrating Donald Trump’s decision to kill Iran’s General Qassem Suleimani, it was Chinese President Xi Jinping. After all, escalating tensions with Iran will distract the US from its competition with China, just as the 9/11 attacks did a generation ago.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – US President Donald Trump’s decision to order the assassination of Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful military commander, has raised the specter, albeit still distant, of all-out war between the United States and the Islamic Republic. There is only one winner in this situation: China.
The Suleimani Assassination and US Strategic Incoherence

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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Xi Jinping’s Annus Horribilis

December 16, 2019

Trade disputes with the US, concerns about Chinese interference in Hong Kong, and ethnic tensions in Xinjiang all preceded Xi Jinping’s rise to power in late 2012. Their escalation in the last year is a direct result of China’s shift to authoritarianism under Xi.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – China’s strongman leader can’t seem to catch a break. From the trade war with the United States to the crisis in Hong Kong to international criticism of his human-rights record, President Xi Jinping suffered major setbacks in 2019, and his prospects for 2020 appear even worse.
Cronies Everywhere

PS OnPoint

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

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China’s Risky Endgame in Hong Kong

November 13, 2019

In 2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that by the time the People’s Republic celebrates its centenary in 2049, it should be a “great modern socialist country” with an advanced economy. But following through with planned measures to tighten mainland China’s grip on Hong Kong would make achieving that goal all but impossible.

CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Although the rapid escalation of violence in Hong Kong seems terrifying enough, things may be about to get much worse. The communiqué of the recently concluded fourth plenum of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) indicates that Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to tighten his grip on the former British colony at any cost. He

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How China Loses Friends and Alienates People

October 17, 2019

China’s recent attempt to bully the National Basketball Association over a tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters has backfired. Although the government has successfully intimidated many a Western company and foreign government, this time it made a huge – and potentially costly – miscalculation.

CLAREMONT – The Chinese folk saying “lift a rock only to drop it on one’s own feet,” or its English equivalent – “to shoot oneself in the foot” – perfectly describes the self-defeating inclinations of dictatorship. And nothing exemplifies such inclinations so much as China’s recent effort to bully America’s National Basketball Association (NBA).
The High Price of Trump’s Great Betrayal

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The Coming Crisis of China’s One-Party Regime

September 20, 2019

In 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised that the Communist Party would deliver great successes in advance of two upcoming centennials, in 2021 and 2049. But no amount of nationalist posturing can change the fact that the fall of the CPC appears closer than at any time since the end of the Mao era.

CLAREMONT – On October 1, to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic, Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver a speech that unreservedly celebrates the Communist Party of China’s record since 1949. But, despite Xi’s apparent confidence and optimism, the CPC’s rank and file are increasingly concerned about the regime’s future prospects – with good reason.
The Meritocracy Muddle

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A Tiananmen Solution in Hong Kong?

August 12, 2019

When there are no good options, leaders must choose the least bad one. China’s government may loathe the idea of making concessions to the Hong Kong protesters, but considering the catastrophic consequences of a military crackdown, that is what it must do.

WASHINGTON, DC – The crisis in Hong Kong appears to be careening toward a devastating climax. With China’s government now using rhetoric reminiscent of that which preceded the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters – and, indeed, its democracy – could well be in grave danger.
The Case for a Guaranteed Job

PS OnPoint

Getty Images

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The US Needs to Talk About China

July 22, 2019

In a democracy, a government cannot pursue a long-term struggle with a powerful geopolitical adversary without sustained political support from an informed public. That is why the US urgently needs to launch a credible public debate on US President Donald Trump’s confrontational China policy.

WASHINGTON, DC – Of all the changes in US foreign policy President Donald Trump’s administration has made, the most consequential is the adoption of a confrontational stance toward China. Replacing a decades-old policy of engagement, Trump’s approach has not only resulted in an economic cold war between the world’s two largest economies; it has also raised the specter of armed conflict in the South China Sea and the

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China Is Courting Disaster in Hong Kong

June 13, 2019

The likely passage of Hong Kong’s controversial extradition law will irrevocably tarnish the city’s rule of law and its attractiveness as an international commercial hub. Unless China’s leaders are prepared to accept these disastrous consequences, they should withdraw the bill before it is too late.

WASHINGTON, DC – The world has been riveted by the protests raging in Hong Kong against the city government’s proposed law to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. About one million people – roughly one-seventh of the former British colony’s population – took to the streets on June 9 to denounce the draft law, and another large protest on June 12 resulted in violent clashes

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The Lasting Tragedy of Tiananmen Square

May 31, 2019

Despite the Communist Party of China’s best efforts to whitewash history, the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 3-4, 1989, continues to have a lasting impact on the country’s political development. Sadly, after 30 years, the country now has the regime that those responsible for the massacre always wanted.

WASHINGTON, DC – China’s progress toward an open society ended when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) slaughtered at least hundreds, if not thousands, of peaceful demonstrators in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 3-4, 1989. The crackdown left a lasting stain on the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), despite the regime’s unrelenting efforts to whitewash history and suppress

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Is Trump’s Trade War with China a Civilizational Conflict?

May 14, 2019

Recent remarks by a senior Trump administration official suggest that the United States’ current approach to China is dangerously misconceived. The rise of China under a one-party dictatorship should be met with a united front in defense of the liberal order, not talk of a clash of Caucasian and non-Caucasian civilizations.

WASHINGTON, DC – Late last month at a security forum in Washington, DC, Kiron Skinner, Director of Policy Planning for the US Department of State, described today’s US-China conflict as “a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology, and the United States hasn’t had that before.” As a trial balloon, this apparent attempt to define the Trump

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The Closing of the Chinese Mind

April 16, 2019

Lou Jiwei is a hard-charging reformer with an illustrious record of accomplishments. The Chinese government’s decision to dismiss him from his post as chairman of the national social security fund underscores the dangerous ways in which President Xi Jinping has transformed decision-making in China.

WASHINGTON, DC – Lou Jiwei may not be a household name in the West, but the former Chinese finance minister is well known and highly respected among financiers and economic policymakers. Yet, earlier this month, China’s government announced Lou’s dismissal from his post as chairman of the country’s national social security fund. The move reflects a change in the Chinese leadership’s approach to governance that is likely to

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The High Costs of the New Cold War

March 14, 2019

The new cold war against China will be won not through ideology or even weaponry, but through economic pressure, and the winning strategy will not be one that weaponizes only America’s greed. In this sense, by nickel-and-diming its allies, the US is effectively disarming itself.

LONDON – It is convenient to call the escalating geopolitical contest between the United States and China a “new cold war.” But that description should not be allowed to obscure the obvious, though not yet sufficiently understood, reality that this new competition will differ radically from the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

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Why a US-China Trade Deal Is Not Enough

February 18, 2019

If the US and China fail to reach a comprehensive trade agreement, bilateral trade will plummet, and the unraveling of the US-China economic relationship would accelerate. But even if an agreement is reached, that unraveling will continue, because, at its core, the trade war has always been about security.

WASHINGTON, DC – As Chinese and American trade negotiators meet in Washington to try to forge an accord on trade, observers are largely focused on the countries’ economic disagreements, such as over China’s subsidies to its state-owned enterprises. But to think that an agreement on trade will protect the world from a Sino-American cold war would be as premature as it would be naïve.

Wojtek Radwanski/AFP/Getty Images

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