Avoiding ideological conflict with Beijing: Thomas Pepinsky and Jessica Chen Weiss


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Two flags at the forefront of a dinner with representatives from China and the United States.

This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Thomas Pepinsky and Jessica Chen Weiss, both professors of government at Cornell University, about their recent essay in Foreign Affairs, “The Clash of Systems? Washington Should Avoid Ideological Competition With Beijing.” In that essay, they argue that, despite all the talk of Chinese authoritarianism as an existential threat to American democracy, Beijing is mostly on the defensive, and does not seek to export its political system. This is not to say that American democracy is not under threat: It very much is — but not from China. Tom, a specialist on Southeast Asia, looks at the ASEAN countries and their relations with Beijing to show that ideological affinity is not a predictor of close ties to China. And Jessica offers an update to her influential 2019 essay on China’s effort to “make the world safe for autocracy.”

8:08: Defining ideology and ideological competition 

19:57: Beijing’s transactional conduct with nations in Southeast Asia and the geostrategic implications

25:20: How the current rhetoric in the United States fuels Sinophobia and anti-Asian racism

36:01: China as the disgruntled stakeholder 

A transcript of this episode is available on SupChina.com.


Tom: The French television shows Lupin and The Bureau

Jessica: “The Ezra Klein Show” podcast interview with Jamila Michener, and anything written by Yangyang Cheng.

Kaiser: Music to read by: The Goldberg Variations (particularly the 1982 version performed by Glenn Gould and the version performed by Lang Lang), The Well-Tempered Clavier, and The French Suites, by Johann Sebastian Bach, and the YouTube series “What Makes This Song Great?,” by Rick Beato.