Is China’s Rise Still Peaceful?

Last month I visited Ningxia province, in China’s northwest. It is a relatively poor region, with a large Muslim population, a considerable stretch of desert, and a growing petrochemical industry. It is far from the unrest of Xinjiang province to the west and the maritime disputes of the South China Sea to the east. Ningxia is leveraging its Muslim heritage to attract investment from the Arab...
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Deserts vs. Development in China

We were surrounded by sand. It stretched in undulating waves to the horizon in all directions. Wei Men, who works for the Baijitan Nature Reserve in Ningxia province, beckoned for us to step down from our desert overlook and take a close-up look at the desert floor. He wanted to show us what officials hope is the future of this arid stretch of China. Ningxia is facing a big problem. A small and...
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The Empire’s New Asian Clothes

In a future update of The Devil’s Dictionary, the famed Ambrose Bierce dissection of the linguistic hypocrisies of modern life, a single word will accompany the entry for “Pacific pivot”: retreat. It might seem a strange way to characterize the Obama administration’s energetic attempt to reorient its foreign and military policy toward Asia. After all, the president’s team has...
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When Soft Power Fails

The oldest Chinatown in the world is not in New York or San Francisco or even Yokohama. It is in Manila, a fact that comes up often when Beijing talks about its longstanding connection to the islands that lie about 600 miles to the southeast.  Similarly, China boasts of its three Confucius Institutes in the Philippines where Filipinos can learn Mandarin and appreciate the many facets of Chinese...
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Frenemies

We won our independence from the British in a hard-fought revolutionary battle. Today, no hard feelings: the Anglo-American alliance is strong, we all love Downton Abbey, and our skirmishes are largely confined to disputes over which version of The Office is funnier and how to spell and pronounce the word “aluminum.” We fought the Germans, the Japanese, and the Italians, and these...
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Our Man in Beijing?

When Hu Jintao took over as the leader of China in 2002, U.S. companies welcomed his accession as a “good sign for American business.” Political analysts described Hu as a fourth-generation member of the Communist party leadership who might very well turn out to be a “closet liberal.” Playing it safe, the media tended to portray him as a pragmatic enigma. In the wake of 9/11 and...
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