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Minxin Pei
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This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Minxin Pei, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and the author of China’s Crony Capitalism.

Project Syndicate: In your latest PS commentary, you argue that a Tiananmen-style crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong would only make matters worse, rendering the city instantly ungovernable and demolishing a vital bridge between China and the global economy. China’s government would thus be far better off making some concessions. What concessions would be palatable to China’s government and yet succeed in appeasing the people of Hong Kong?

Minxin Pei: Protesters in Hong Kong have made five key demands: withdrawal of the extradition bill (which Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has declared “dead,” but has refused to withdraw formally); an independent investigation of police misconduct; the release of arrested protesters and dismissal of all charges against them; Lam’s resignation; and renewed political reform (leading to direct elections in Hong Kong).

Of these, the first three should be easy to accept because they do not directly challenge the Chinese government’s authority. Lam’s resignation might be less attractive to China, but it is still feasible; someone has to be the fall guy, and she has lost credibility. Political reforms might be too much for China’s government to swallow, but accepting four of the five demands would probably stabilize the situation in Hong Kong almost instantly.

Pei recommends

We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Pei's picks:

  • The Back Channel

    The Back Channel

    An engrossing account of how the US relied on diplomacy, not force, to achieve key foreign-policy objectives, and a relevant read at a time when the US is no longer practicing traditional diplomacy.

  • The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State

    The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State

    The first book by a major China scholar to examine systematically Xi’s rhetoric and policies reaches a stark conclusion: Xi is engineering a political revolution that is reversing the progress China has made since Mao.

From the PS Archive

From 2018
Five months into Trump’s trade war, Pei argued that portraying China’s efforts to spread its influence abroad as a genuine threat to the world’s democracies not only highlighted the West’s own insecurity, but also gave China more credit than it deserved. Read his commentary.

From 2015
Before Trump even arrived on the political scene, Pei wondered if the downward spiral in Sino-American relations overseen by President Barack Obama could be reversed. Read his commentary.

Around the web

Pei tells CNN’s Christiane Amanpour why China doesn’t want to engage with Trump and offers insight into China’s response to the Hong Kong protests. Watch the interview.

Pei explores the digital dimension of the competition between the US and China. Watch his speech.

Pei offers a concise overview of the comforts and freedoms Chinese have gained as a result of economic development, and those they are likely to demand in the near future. Watch the video.