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MERICS researchers discuss and analyze developments and current affairs in China: What is behind the Belt and Road Initiative? What kind of leader is Xi Jinping? How should we assess China’s climate change policies? How does the Chinese government use social media to its own ends?

The podcasts are approximately 10 to 15 minutes long. In addition to MERICS’s own staff, other experts on China and guest speakers at MERICS also take part in the interviews.

Follow us on Soundcloud or iTunes to see which podcasts we are currently airing or click on the RSS feed here to subscribe to our channel.


James Kynge: The New Silk Road and the "China Dream"

February 22, 2017

The "New Silk Road" or "One Belt One Road Initiative" launched by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013 is unprecedented in scope and reach. China wants to spend some $900bn on infrastructure projects connecting the Middle Kingdom to other parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. This, Beijing hopes, will create new markets for Chinese products and provide contracts for Chinese companies. But some projects have turned into “red elephants”, others have clear strategic and military dimensions, says James Kynge, seasoned China-watcher and former FT bureau chief in Beijing. OBOR, he argues, is much more than Chinese-style globalization. Listen to James Kynge talking about China’s ambitions and the risks and opportunities of OBOR in the new Merics Experts Podcast.

Kevin Rudd: China’s nascent strategy for a new global order

October 12, 2016

What does China really want with its foreign policy? Is there a grand strategy for Xi Jinping’s new multilateralism? And is China’s „One Belt, One Road“ initiative maybe less about geopolitics and more of an encounter with the complex realities in some of the most unstable countries in the world? Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has met Xi Jinping several times and last week shared his observations with MERICS. The experienced diplomat, politician and fluent Mandarin speaker gave a lecture at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and talked to MERICS Director Sebastian Heilmann. Listen to an edited version of the event in our new MERICS Experts podcast.

Zhang Jieping: "There’s a huge appetite for independent journalism"

October 5, 2016

These are tough times for independent media in China: Censorship and controls have increased considerably in recent years. The pressure is also felt in Hongkong despite the territory’s greater freedoms. Still, several media start-ups have sprung up in Hongkong recently. One of the biggest is the online platform “Initium”. Within a year it has attracted more than two million regular readers although the site quickly got blocked on the mainland. Chief Editor Zhang Jieping says there’s a huge appetite for independent journalism. In the new Merics Experts podcast she talks about how to survive in a challenging political environment while sticking to her journalistic principles.

Richard McGregor: China's authoritarian future

August 4, 2016

For all its problems, China is an incredibly successful country and still has a lot of growth potential, says Richard McGregor, visiting fellow at George Washington University. All gloomy scenarios about economic or political collapse have proved wrong so far. So, what if Xi Jinping succeeds in restructuring the economy and strengthening the Communist Party? China would emerge as a much more powerful country, says McGregor. However, there’s nothing in the party’s DNA that suggests China would be more accommodating internationally or more liberal domestically. That’s Richard McGregor in the latest Merics Experts podcast.

You Ji: China aims to project military strength well beyond its borders

July 26, 2016

Xi Jinping has used military reforms to strengthen his command over the People’s Liberation Army. And he’s using personal connections, some dating back to his childhood years, to fill central positions within the military, says professor You Ji of Macau University. On strategy, Xi is moving away from his predecessors’ approach. China is now preparing to project power well beyond its borders, catch up with the U.S. and achieve “Great Power Status” built upon military strength. That’s You Ji in the latest Merics Experts podcast.

Victor Shih: Xi Jinping and the power question

July 22, 2016

For years China was led by consensus – factions in the upper echelons of power were carefully calibrated to keep a balance. But with Xi Jinping all that has changed, says Victor Shih of the University of California, San Diego. Since Xi’s faction within the Central Committee is still rather small, he established a number of new leading small groups to strengthen his influence on policy making. At the 19th party congress next year Xi could now try to shrink the size of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee to obtain absolute power within the CCP. That’s Victor Shih in the latest Merics Experts Podcast.

Barry Naughton: "Xi Jinping is not an economic thinker"

July 7, 2016

Expectations for market oriented reforms were running high after the CCP’s 3rd plenum in 2013. But three years on Barry Naughton of the University of California, San Diego, is disappointed: Reform plans have come to nothing; economic problems got worse; the centralization of power has led to paralysis among bureaucrats. Xi Jinping is “political down to his fingernails” but not an economic thinker, says Naughton: “Xi is attached to the long term objective of reform but has only the weakest of attachments to the practical measures that need to be taken to get there.” Now the leadership could read the Brexit vote as another indication that global free markets and institutions are unreliable and unattractive. That’s Barry Naughton in the new Merics Experts podcast.

Tony Saich: “As authoritarian leader I would want to learn from China”

July 1, 2016

The speed with which Xi Jinping has introduced stronger controls on society has surprised many China watchers. The Xi administration has been “extraordinarily successful” in controlling and shaping political communication especially online says Anthony Saich of Harvard Kennedy School: “If I was an authoritarian leader somewhere else in the world, I would want to learn lessons from China.” Moreover, laws constraining foreign NGOs while encouraging domestic charity work for causes close to the CCP’s priorities tend to further reduce space for association and new ideas.

MacFarquhar: China’s strong top man heads a very fragile system

June 30, 2016

Xi Jinping has centralized power in China to unprecedented levels: he has sidelined both the prime minister and the state council and is trying to control everything himself says distinguished Harvard historian Roderick MacFarquhar. Xi might have – like Mao Zedong long before him - a vision and a sense of direction for China but he lacks the authority and historic legitimacy to implement his ideas. Even worse: his leadership style weakens the entire system. That’s Roderick Macfarquhar in the new Merics Experts podcast.

China Dispute: Will Top-Down Leadership Achieve Political Stability?

June 28, 2016

Review of MERICS China Dispute “The Xi Jinping challenge: Will top-down leadership achieve political stability in China?” with Richard McGregor, Roderick MacFarquhar, Sebastian Heilmann and Anthony Saich.