On the Party and the Princelings

Desmund Shum is a red billionaire. Red Roulette is his memoir, a tell all expose of his family’s climb to the summits of wealth and the foothills of power. The book describes how he and his ex-wife maneuvered to the top—and why they subsequently crashed back to earth. Their fall was as dramatic as their rise: Shum now lives in exile; his unfortunate ex now lives in prison. With nothing to lose, Shum lets loose: his memoir promises to hang Beijing’s dirty laundry for all to see. What a sight this laundry turns out to be! Read this book. Though Shum is unreliable narrator, his memoir is the best single introduction to elite Chinese life yet written.

Continue Reading

Yale and the Education of Governing Elites

The resignation of Beverly Gage, professor of history at Yale and director of the Brady-Johnson Grand Strategy Program, is the great brouhaha of the last weekend.

I am not a graduate of the grand strategy course, but have followed its development over the last decade and a half.

Continue Reading

The Framers and the Framed: Notes On the Slate Star Codex Controversy

Let’s talk about the grand Slate Star Codex brouhaha. A lot of people have already written about this. Here is the original New York Times piece that started the controversy. [1] Against the Grey Lady we have Cathy Young, Robby Soave, Micah Meadowcroft, Matthew Yglesias, Freddie DeBoer, Scott Aaronson, Noah Smith, and Dan Drezner, as […]

Continue Reading

A Theory of Authoritarian Personality Cults

Mary McAuley’s Soviet Politics: 1917-1991 is one of those rare works that marries concision with intellectual heft. Though only 123 pages in length, every page sparkles with insight. Though not a tour de force in the traditional sense, it manages to say something noteworthy about nearly every aspect of Soviet political history.  Many of the […]

Continue Reading

China’s Attack on Australia is About America

Image source The escalating crisis in Sino-Australian relations prompts a new piece.  Foreign Policy publishes my latest under the title “Biden’s First Foreign Policy Crisis is Already Here.” I approve of the title. Not everything is about America, and I often spend my time trying to show how the moving force behind any given international […]

Continue Reading

When “Engagement” Backfired: The Story Behind Pro-Communist Private Enterprise

Image source Min Ye’s  The Belt Road and Beyond: State-Mobilized Globalization in China 1998–2018 is an interesting, if dense, examination of Chinese development politics. I dislike the jargon Ye has invented to convey her ideas, but am delighted with the evidence she marshals in support of her arguments. Ye wants to focus our understanding of […]

Continue Reading

The Problem Isn’t the ‘Merit,’ It’s the ‘Ocracy’

Image Source Two weeks or so ago Liam Bright posted the following tweet: Liberal technocrats give us literally no reason at all to think their interests are aligned with the great majority of people, yet when they are attacked as a governing class they stress their credentials and competency. But it’d be worse if they’re […]

Continue Reading

Fissures in the Facade

Alessandro Rizzi, “Man in Xidan Shopping District,” Getty Images (Source) There are many aspects of Chinese society that I understand poorly. For example: the peasantry. I know the Chinese peasantry—as opposed to their close kin, the migrant workers—entirely in the abstract. I have spent no time in rural Chinese villages. I have watched documentaries about […]

Continue Reading