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Xi Jinping, China, and the World (Part 1)

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Xi Jinping, China, and the World (Part 1)

photograph of a hall with several photos and graffiti written on the wall. many people in hard hats and reflective wear stand in front.
Protesters of the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill briefly occupied the Hong Kong Legislative Council Complex on July 1, 2019. Source: Wikipedia at

During the last 4-5 years, President Xi Jinping’s government has engaged in aggressive domestic and global policies that raise profound concerns for human rights and freedom. This exclusive focuses upon China’s actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Xinjiang. Readers of one of the books in the AAS Asia Shorts series are certainly paying attention to China’s actions. Since its publication in fall 2020, Michael C. Davis’s Making Hong Kong China: The Rollback of Human Rights and the Rule of Law has become, by far, the best-selling Asia Shorts book. One motivating factor for this column occurred last summer when I coordinated two East Asia institutes for 40 high school and middle school teachers. Frequent questions about recent Beijing policy decisions dominated several of the sessions. The intent of the essay that follows is to provide contextual background for teachers unfamiliar with the problems faced in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Xinjiang, as well as provide more current resources pertaining to these problems.

Mark Metcalf in “The National Humiliation Narrative: Dealing with the Present by Fixating on the Past” (volume 25, number 2, fall 2020) chronicles a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government-enforced historical narrative that was established early in the Mao years, but continues to influence anti-colonialism rhetoric that helps shape Chinese opinion concerning international relations. Woyu Liu’s  “Anti-Colonialism and Modern History Education in China” (volume 22, number 1, spring 2017) discusses the tight control the state exercises on college students by the imposition of mandatory universal political education for all undergraduates.

Former AAS Journal of Asian Studies Editor Jeffrey Wasserstrom is an accomplished historian and public intellectual. In “Vigil: HONG KONG IN CRISIS An Interview with Jeffrey Wasserstrom” (volume 25, number 2, fall 2020) Wasserstrom discusses his small, but powerful firsthand account briefly beginning with events since the 1997 formal transfer of Hong Kong to China and then poignantly describes subsequent student protests against the Chinese government, as well as the beginning of the June 2020 “Death of Hong Kong as we know it . . .”

Shelley Rigger’s essay: “Why Are We Still Talking About Taiwan?” (volume 17, number 3, winter 2012) is the lead essay in a symposium titled “Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China and the US” that appeared less than a year before Xi Jinping came to power and featured essays by another academic and three journalistsDigest readers who are unfamiliar with Taiwan can start with Rigger’s essay and are highly encouraged to obtain a copy of her book, Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse. It remains the most highly readable introduction to Taiwan available in English.

Readers interested in a well-done textbook on Taiwan now in its seventh edition should read Thomas Shattuck’s review of John Copper’s Taiwan: Nation-State or Province? from the fall 2020 issue (volume 25, number 2).

The Chinese government action that has garnered the most world attention as a human rights issue is the forced internment of over one million Uyghurs in Xinjiang Province. The Xinjiang Documentation Project by Remy Hellstern and Jakub Mscichowski is appearing in our next issue (volume 26, number 2, fall 2021) that is now in press and will be available online relatively soon. The main page and teaching page of the Xinjiang Documentation Project, located at the University of British Columbia, can be accessed below.

Xinjiang Documentation Project: Main Page

Xinjiang Documentation Project: Teaching

Other Teaching Resources: Taiwan and Xinjiang

The USC US-China Institute directed by Clayton Dube is a treasure trove of multiple perspectives and contrasting viewpoints on China-related topics. Shelley Rigger’s 2021 book The Tiger Leading the Dragon: How Taiwan Propelled China’s Economic Rise describes the seminal role Taiwan exercised in China’s economic rise. Digest subscribers who don’t have time to read the book are encouraged to watch Shelley Rigger on “Taiwan’s Role in China’s Economic Rise.” Clayton Dube follows up with questions from the audience for Professor Rigger.

Images text says: Taiwan's Role in China's Economic Rise
Thumbnail image for “Taiwan’s Role in China’s Economic Rise” by Shelley Rigger from the USC US-China Institute YouTube page at

Meanwhile, Chinese pressure on Taiwan is escalating with increases in military flyovers and various kinds of pressure on individuals and organizations that Beijing views as being friendly or even neutral regarding Taiwan. As this Digest is about to be published, the situation regarding the Taiwan straits does not appear to be improving. Readers interested in this potential global crisis who appreciate multiple perspectives are urged to visit these Asia-related divisions of three prominent think tanks for regular updates often intended for educated lay people:

The Council of Foreign Relations:

The Foreign Policy Research institute:

The American Enterprise Center:

In 2020, the USC US-China Institute hosted the presentation “Cultural Genocide in Xinjiang” by Uyghur-American Nurnisa Kurban who grew up in Xinjiang and graduated from Xinjiang University. She is now an Assistant Principal at Helen Bernstein High School in Los Angeles.

This article was published as part of the October 2021 EAA Digest.