One Billion Americans

Matthew Yglesias’s One Billion Americans helped calm me through the storms of the long post-election vote counting drama. The book contains a political program so ambitious–far beyond the scope of even the most impressive Biden landslide–that it was not acutely disappointing to read it knowing that the results came down as they did. It was particularly comforting for me as I’ve probably read almost all of the dozens of pieces that he has written that were weaved together into this text calling for investment, immigration, and improved support for families.

While ambitious, the agenda is not radical in anything beyond the framing device. American politicians uniformly take pride in the country’s leading global role and are not prepared for the eventuality that another land (i.e. China) may take it’s place. Yglesias takes these arguments literally and seriously. Economic and cultural power are derived in the main from the size of the economy. The USA has been bigger and richer than every other major power, but with rapid Chinese economic growth and its population 4x that of the US, this does not seem likely to last long. Tripling the American population would be radical and likely overkill for keeping the US economy far larger than China given that country’s own demographic trajectory.

If you read or listen to Yglesias, you will know the voice on the page (or, even more so, I suppose, in the audio book version). It feels like the longest Weeds soliloquy of all time. Argumentation is often through thought experiments with support from various white papers and experts. Cities should be larger, yes there is space, trains should be built more cheaply and run more smartly, climate change does not alter the calculus, immigration helps immigrants and the existing population, having children is incredibly expensive and more support is needed, etc.

Quibbles: (1) there is not really a breakdown of what the eponymous 1 billion would look like, what share comes from immigration (from where?) versus from increased family size. This is probably because he does not actually care about 1 billion other than the catchy title (which, fair, and numerically, it would have to be immigrants that make up the far bulk of a race to 1 billion as moving from 1.8 to 3 children per woman wouldn’t get us there for … generations). (2) Relatedly, there is not a sense of what these policy changes would mean for the world–other than continued American leadership. Would 1 billion (or just a lot more) Americans mean that global population estimates increase by half a billion or so? Or should the expectation be that this is shifting people around in space not increasing our numbers?

Xinjiang’s “Re-Education” Camps

Welcome back! After a hiatus, the ChinaLab podcast is back with season two. Our first episode is the audio for an event on Cornell’s campus on 10 September 2018. Magnus Fiskesjö and John Hubbel Weiss joined me to talk about the current situation facing Xinjiang and its Uyghur population. The topic’s significance hopefully can make up for the lower than normal audio quality and a short interruption that comes in after about 7 minutes. I hope to have more episodes so share throughout this school year.


Jiang-Wallace Interview, Take 2

Welcome back! On Jiang Zemin’s 90th birthday, I’m happy to share another Jiang-Wallace interview that might help improve understanding of China and Chinese politics. I had the pleasure of talking with Junyan Jiang, who is finishing his PhD in Political Science at the University of Chicago and starting as a post-doc at University of Pennsylvania, about his recently published paper, “Lying or Believing? Measuring Preference Falsification From a Political Purge in China” in Comparative Political Studies and co-authored with Dali Yang also at UofC. The paper navigates a difficult task: it measures citizens in a dictatorship falsifying their preferences about the government when interacting with survey researchers.

David Bandurski on Dragons in Diamond Village

David Bandurski of the China Media Project spoke with me last month about his new book, Dragons in Diamond Village. The book is full of deeply reported tales of urbanizing China. Our conversation touches on how to structure and set the boundaries for a project that can seem boundless.

FYI: Unfortunately, the recording cuts off our conversation early, but I’m posting it in the hopes that listeners will be excited for the book which is coming out this fall.

Yongheng Deng on Risks in China’s Housing Market

Yongheng Deng, Provost’s Chair & Professor of Real Estate and Finance at National University of Singapore, presented some of his research on China’s housing market on campus as part of Cornell’s Contemporary China Initiative. For this special episode, I’m posting the audio from that lecture to give you his thoughts on this important subject. A video recording of the lecture can be found here.

China through Imperfect Analogies with Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Jeffrey Wasserstrom spoke with me about his newest book, Eight Juxtapositions: China through imperfect analogies from Mark Twain to Manchukuo, which illuminates nuances and deconstructs the facile comparisons that dominate so much thinking and writing about China today.



Land Bargains and Chinese Capitalism with Meg Rithmire

Meg Rithmire talked with me about her new book, Land Bargains and Chinese Capitalism: The Politics of Property Rights under Reform. If land prices and fiscal reforms aren’t enough to hold your interest, be on the lookout for the Bo Xilai anecdotes.

China in the International Financial System with Wang Hongying

Wang Hongying joins me to discuss Enter the Dragon: China in the International Financial System, a new book that she edited with Domenico Lombardi. The country’s evolving place in international finance is a key but understudied piece of “China’s rise.”