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2013-2014 Noon Lecture Series

Contracting out Violence: Patron-Client Relationship between the Government and Thugs in China
March 18, 2014 - Lynette H. Ong (associate professor, Dept. of Political Science, University of Toronto)
Thuggery, gangsterism, and dark societies (hei shehui) are on the rise in China. They are increasingly recruited by the government as an extralegal coercive force, carrying out violent actions on “uncooperative” citizens. Thugs are frequently hired by local governments to pressurize and bulldoze ‘nail households’ using coercive force in order to clear land for urban development. Land-related protests have become the primary cause of social unrest. Gangsters are also often associated with the infamous city patrol (chengguan), whose brutal crackdown on street vendors often sparks public anger. This paper explores the context in which government-related thuggery and violence have arisen, and its implications for governance and state legitimacy. A symbiosis is formed between the government and thugs where the weak state routinely coopts or enlists the help of thugs or “security companies” to carry out certain policies with coercive force, and the thugs engage in such activities for a profit. Drawing from Weber’s idea that only a state has legitimate monopoly over violence, the Chinese government has lost its monopoly over violence and its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens. Such a symbiotic relationship is ultimately detrimental to the state, as it breeds a vicious cycle. As legitimacy erodes, the state needs to progressively recruit thugs to deal with rebellious citizens, and repress popular grievances, which will give rise to further social instability.

China Reporter’s Notebook: When the story gets personal – a journalist and adoptive parent perspective on a baby trafficking/international adoption scandal
April 8, 2014 -
 Scott Tong (Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at U-M)
Marketplace public radio correspondent Scott Tong, former China bureau chief and current Knight-Wallace journalism fellow at Michigan, shares his perspective on a memorable story from his four-year stint in Shanghai. Tong tracked down a man convicted of selling babies to Hunan orphanages in China’s international adoption program. The investigation and paper chase led to a lengthy radio piece, and a subsequent hunt for the true origins of his adopted daughter.

For the past decade, Scott Tong has served as on-air correspondent for Marketplace, the daily business show on public radio stations across the country. He founded the program’s Shanghai bureau in 2006, serving there for four years. Now, he reports on energy, resources and global economics for the program’s Sustainability Desk. Tong has reported on everything from the “consumer arms race” in America, to the 2012 Horn of Africa famine, to Japan’s earthquake and tsunami from 2011. Public radio listeners have heard his stories from more than a dozen countries. Prior to Marketplace, he worked as a producer for the PBS NewsHour and as a congressional staffer. Tong is a graduate of Georgetown University and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and three children.

Use the Bottom to Squeeze the Middle: How to Understand
Social Policy in Contemporary China
February 25, 2014 - Mary Gallagher (Associate Professor of Political Science;
Director of CCS, U-M)
This talk examines how the Chinese government has developed strategies to enhance its capacity to govern despite the lack of democratic mechanisms that provide feedback and bottom-up evaluation. In the arena of labor and social policies, the government has combined high standards with extensive publicity and education, which encourages social mobilization around newly granted rights and entitlements. A key question in the future is whether the government can manage the rising expectations that accompany social mobilization.

Earth, Water, Power: The Ecology of War in North China's Henan Province, 1938-1950
February 11, 2014 - Micah Muscolino (Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University)
In the most environmentally damaging act of warfare in world history, Chinese Nationalist armies under Chiang Kai-shek broke the Yellow River’s dikes in June 1938 to block a Japanese military offensive, throwing water control systems into disarray and causing devastating floods that persisted until World War II came to an end. Based on the speaker's forthcoming book, this talk explores the ecological history of the river’s strategic diversion and its aftermath to engage with larger issues related to the interplay between war and the environment.

Xi Jinping's Strategy and Prospects
December 11, 2013 - Kenneth Lieberthal (Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies, John L. Thornton China Center, The Brookings Institution)
Dr. Lieberthal is Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy, Global Economy and Development, and also the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. He served as Director of the China Center for July 2009-August 2012. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan, where until 2009 he was Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Political Science and William Davidson Professor of Business Administration. He taught at Swarthmore College from 1972-83. He has a B.A. from Dartmouth College, and two M.A.'s and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University. He has served as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Asia on the National Security Council from 1998 through 2000. His government responsibilities encompassed American policy toward all issues involving Northeast, East, and Southeast Asia. His latest book, Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy (co-authored with Martin Indyk and Michael O’Hanlon), was published by the Brookings Press in March 2012. This event was cosponsored by The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China's Ascent
December 3, 2013 - Alumnus Damien Ma (CCS MA '06)
Alumnus Damien Ma (CCS MA '06) will discuss his new book (co-authored with William Adams), which turns the conventional wisdom on its head by showing why China’s economic growth will constrain rather than empower it. In this book, Damien Ma and William Adams reveal why, having 35 years of ferocious economic growth, China’s future will be shaped by the same fundamental reality that has shaped it for millennia: scarcity. Ma and Adams drill deep into Chinese society, illuminating all the scarcities that will limit its power and progress. Beyond scarcities of natural resources and public goods, they illuminate China’s persistent poverties of individual freedoms, cultural appeal, and ideological legitimacy — and the corrosive loss of values and beliefs amongst a growing middle class shackled by a parochial and inflexible political system. Everyone knows “the 21st century is China’s to lose” — but, as with so many things that “everyone knows,” that’s just wrong. Ma and Adams get beyond cheerleading and fearmongering to tell the complex truth about China today. This is a truth you need to hear — whether you’re an investor, business decision-maker, policymaker, or citizen.

Quack Corporate Governance as Traditional Chinese Medicine-Firm Organization and the Consequences of China's Unreconstructed Political Economy
November 12, 2013
- Nicholas Howson (Professor of Law, Michigan Law School)
From the start of the PRC’s “corporatization” project in the late 1980s, a Chinese corporate governance regime subject to increasingly “enabling” legal norms has been determined by “mandatory” regulations imposed by the PRC securities regulator, the CSRC. Indeed, the Chinese corporate law system has been cannibalized by all-encompassing securities regulation directed at corporate governance, at least for companies with listed stock. This presentation traces the path of that sustained intervention, and makes a case – wholly contrary to the “quack corporate governance” critique much aired in the U.S. – that for the PRC this phenomenon is necessary and appropriate, and benign. That analysis in turn reveals a great deal about: the development of Chinese law and legal institutions after 1979; China’s contemporary political economy; the true identity of the firm under the PRC “corporatization without privatization” program; the normative character and function of corporate law across the globe; and the ways in which state intervention may protect against state abuse of power and enable greater private autonomy.

Seals and the Sources of Chinese Buddhism
November 5, 2013 - Paul Copp (Associate Professor of Chinese Religion and Thought, University of Chicago)
Stamp seals, both as physical objects and especially as metaphors, are nearly everywhere in Buddhism. This is easy to understand: seals had long been central to the practices of the civilizations, Indian and Chinese most prominently, in which Buddhism took on its most powerfully influential cultural forms. In this talk I will explore the broad history of religious seal practice in which ninth and tenth century Chinese Buddhist ritualists compiled versions of a manual for the making and use of Buddhist talismanic seals found among the Dunhuang manuscripts.

International Relations and Chinese History: The Rise of Qing China
October 29, 2013 - Yuan-Kang Wang (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Western Michigan University)
Can Chinese history tell us anything about China’s rise today? This talk will examine how the Manchus of Qing China rose to preeminence and established regional hegemony in East Asia. By integrating international relations theory with Chinese history, this talk will demonstrate how a rising state expands political interests abroad and establishing rules of the game for the system.

Marriage Networks and the Geography of Power in Ninth-Century China
October 22, 2013 - Nicolas Tackett
(Assistant Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley) How does one account for the long-term survival of the medieval Chinese aristocratic clans despite important institutional developments, including the expanded use of the civil service examinations? How does one then explain the sudden collapse of these families at the turn of the tenth century? By exploiting a large prosopographic database, this paper will explore how a better understanding of the geographic distribution of political power and of the Tang political elite's social networks can help resolve these questions.

China's Contemporary Dance Scene
October 1, 2013 - Emily Wilcox
(Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Studies, University of Michigan)
China’s contemporary dance scene is one of the most dynamic and diverse in the world. Boasting styles as varied as military dances, historical costume dramas, minority dance productions, and modern experimental works, “concert dance” in China is a wide category that must itself be interrogated to begin to gain any understanding of dance in China in the 21st century.

Successful Aging in Transitional China: Accomplishments and Challenges
September 24, 2013 - Lydia Li (Associate Professor of Social Work, University of Michigan)
Successful aging is a very relevant topic for China, given that it has the largest elderly population in the world and one of the fastest rates of population aging in human history.

2012-2013 Noon Lecture Series

March 26, 2013 - Martin Dimitrov (Associate Professor of Political Science, Tulane University) "State Capacity and the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Laws in China" China has some of the highest levels of copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting in the world. What does this mean for our assessment of state capacity in China?

March 19, 2013 - Martin Powers (Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Culture, University of Michigan, History of Art) "The Politics of the Brushstroke"

February 26, 2013 - Victor Nee (Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor of Sociology, Cornell University) "Capitalism from Below: Where do Economic Institutions Come From?" This presentation discusses the model and findings from a seven year study of the private enterprise economy and emergence of economic institutions of capitalism in the Yangzi Delta region of China. 

February 19, 2013 - Jersey Liang (Professor of Health Management and Policy, U-M School of Public Health) "Physical Performance and Socio-Economic Status Among Older Chinese: a Multi-Level Analysis" This presentation focuses on physical performance (i.e., grip strength, normal walking speed, and rapid walk speed) as a function of socio-economic status at the individual, household and community levels among older Chinese. 

November 20, 2012 - Benjamin Levey (Associate Professor of History, U-M Dearborn) "In the Land of the People without Sutras: Jungar Refugees and Qing-Kazakh Relations, 1758-1775" Based on a large corpus of previously unstudied Manchu language documents, this presentation discusses the fate of Jungar refugees in the fifteen years following the disintegration of the Jungar confederation. 

November 13, 2012 - Wang Zheng (U-M Associate Professor of Women's Studies and History; Associate Research Scientist, U-M Institute for Research on Women and Gender; Associate Director, Center for Chinese Studies) "When Talented Women Became Socialist State Power Holders: Chen Bo'er and the Paradigm of Socialist Film in the PRC" An examination of the life of Chen Bo'er (1907-1951), a movie star of the 1930s, who became a founder of the PRC film industry and its implications for elite women in China during the Chinese socialist revolution.

November 6, 2012 - Nicola Di Cosmo (Henry Luce Foundation Professor of East Asian History, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton) "Connectivity, Integration and 'Globalization' in Chinese History" This talk is an examination of various ways in which China has engaged the wider world (and vice versa) in its ancient and early modern past.

October 30, 2012 - Fabio Lanza (Associate Professor of History and East Asian Studies, Arizona State University) "Rethinking 'China' in the Global Sixties: Concerned Americans and French Maoists" This talk was a comparison of the Committee on Concerned Asian Scholars with French Maoists in the 1960s. 

October 29, 2012 - Richard Solomon (Senior Fellow, Rand Corporation) "Wrestling with the Dragon: The Contemporary Challenges of Managing U.S. - China Relations" China Town Hall is a national day of programming on China involving 50 cities throughout the United States. Co-sponsored by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and the U-M Center for Chinese Studies. 

October 23, 2012 - James Benn (Associate Professor of Buddhism and East Asian Religions and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University) "Tea and Other Decoctions for 'Nourishing Life' in Medieval China" Professor Benn examines one significant way in which tea, a relatively new beverage in Tang-dynasty China, was first consumed and understood, alongside other decoctions intended to promote health and wellness.

October 9, 2012 - Lan Deng (U-M Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning) "The Emerging Housing Policy Framework in China" This talk discusses the emerging housing policy framework in China, which includes three major affordable housing programs and a heavily regulated housing finance sector. 

October 2, 2012 - Andrew Wedeman (Professor of Political Science, Georgia State University) "Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China"

September 25, 2012 - Roderick Campbell (Assistant Professor of East Asian Archaeology and History, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University) "On Forgetting: Violence and Memory in Early China" This talk concerns a key Early Chinese practice of kingship: human sacrifice - and its forgetting. Professor Campbell's research has been focused on theorizing ancient social-political organization, social violence and history.