July 21, 2021

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.

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


Jessica Weiss

Jessica Chen Weiss is an associate professor of Government at Cornell University, a political science editor at the Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, and a nonresident Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Weiss is the author of Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations (Oxford University Press, 2014). Her research appears in International OrganizationChina Quarterly, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict ResolutionSecurity StudiesJournal of Contemporary China, and Review of International Political Economy, as well as in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Quarterly. Weiss was previously an assistant professor at Yale University and founded FACES, the Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford, while an undergraduate at Stanford University. Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, she received her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego in 2008, where her dissertation won the 2009 American Political Science Association Award for best dissertation in international relations, law and politics. Weiss is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

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