As anyone who reads the Sinocism newsletter knows, Bill Bishop is among the most plugged-in people in Beijing with an uncanny ability to figure out what is actually happening in the halls of power. But as casual readers may not be aware, he is also an excellent podcast guest due to his habit of bringing first cupcakes and now amazingly smooth bottles of Japanese whisky to our recording sessions before trading the latest gossip about the goings-on in Zhongnanhai.

On today's show we mark Bill's departure from China and his return to the United States where he plans to live for the next few years with his family. While not exactly your requisite "Why I Am Leaving China" blog post, this show gives Kaiser Kuo and David Moser the chance to talk to Bill about the reasons behind his decision, and explore why he sees an increasingly strained relationship between China and the United States over the next few years. [standalone mp3 file]

 said on
September 1, 2015
Good episode, but too much Kaiser too little Bill.
 said on
September 1, 2015
What's the name of the Japanese whisky you were drinking?
 said on
September 2, 2015
One of the best episodes I've listened to. Funny, I got asked by my cousing gf if I was a spy because of the amount of interest I show in China (learning the language, culture etc)
 said on
September 6, 2015
@SanMu Hakushu whisky, perhaps?
 said on
September 9, 2015
 said on
October 1, 2015
Kaiser:…Speaking of sides of history, this supposes this sort of teleological view of history, that I actually have a great deal of difficulty separating myself from, and I think we all kind of embrace it, I mean even people who have a pretty sophisticated understanding of history, it’s hard not, I mean sort of to step away from that inherent teleological assumption that there is a curve, you’re behind the curve, or you’re ahead of the curve of history, and Bill, I’ve heard you say this, use this phrase before, in arguments you have with people, you’re saying “you’re not going to be on the wrong side of history”. You think that China is clearly, under Xi, is not advancing in way that you think...and this ties to, a discussion that we’ve had ongoing for the last several years really, where you, I know you’ve recommended to many people the book “The China Fantasy” by James Mann, and you are kind of a big endorser of the idea that engagement doesn’t work, that..

Bill: No actually my entire career has been part of hoping that engagement does work…

Kaiser: Yeah right right. I know. I know

Bill: …and that sort of reality intervenes.

Kaiser:…mugged by reality, you poor little…

Bill: Especially since 2012

Kaiser:…since 2012, so a 3 year maybe anomaly? 3 years because…I mean I still remain somewhat optimistic about this, you know, let’s set aside for a moment whether we have an inherent view of history that says it moves forward from point A to point B, I don’t necessarily think that it does, I think that we are all kind of jammed together in this kind of common presence where people are at very different points with different ideas about how to arrive at a modernity, and it is not necessarily going to be you know, a secular, capital, urm, liberal capitalism. I think its actually…I would make a case that China will at least in the medium long term go toward that, and remember we talked about on this show before there was this ideological spectrum survey and it was pretty clear that among Chinese people, people with whom those values that we would you know say well, let’s just say for convenience’s sake, let’s just call them “enlightenment values” whatever, that those had sunk inward deeply with those who clearly have had more exposure, economic and cultural and social interpersonal exchange with The West. And that gives me kind of confidence that engagements will you know, it is making a difference.

Bill: Well you have a top leader who has basically almost no contact with the west, I mean he went to Iowa for a few weeks.

Kaiser:…right right.

Bill: So it didn’t sink in with him.

Kaiser:…no no, It obviously didn’t, but he’s not immortal, and neither are…

=============== comment.

 said on
October 27, 2015
Hey guys can you post the source of the Ai Wei Wei comment expressing his preference for the Party over the alternative? Having trouble tracking it down. Thanks!
 said on
July 29, 2016
If you fight for Sharia to replace the Constitution in the US, will the US accept your NGO? If you fight for an end to one-party rule in China, should the government accept your NGO? As long as a political system is supported by a vast majority of the people (true for China, probably true also for the US, given the lack of alternatives), such a system has the moral obligation to fight against its ennemies.

As for "hard to live in China", I've been comming for 10 years, settled now for 3 years, and I don't see how it is hard to live here once you know the language. I get a lot of privileges as a Westerner, which outweighs the institutional discrimination (such as not being able to get a credit card). In daily life most Chinese are still incredibly positive towards Westerners, despite the cultural mistakes and disgusting behavior I see almost every day. It's definitely better to be a foreigner in China than to be a foreigner in Europe (haven't been in the US long enough to judge).

What I completely miss is the discussion of what is actually good for the people. For ideological reasons you which for an end to one-party rule. But why? Intellectuals are just one group. Most of them can live a great life in China, if their fields are history, culture, language, etc. The few who engage in pro-western political thinking have troubles, I admit. But does their freedom outweigh the need of Chinese farmers to get better health insurance? For one thing I'm certain: If Shanghaiers could vote for their government, they wouldn't be in favor of financial support to Tibet, Hubei, or Shaanxi.

I'm probably the outlier in this forum, but I think it's time for some new traits of thought. Cold war is over, any system should be questioned, and any system deserves a fair analysis of it's pros and cons.
Mark Lesson Studied