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Minxin Pei

Dr. Minxin Pei joined GMF as a non-resident senior fellow for Asia in 2012. As part of the Asia team, Pei advances GMF’s work on the implications of China’s rise for the West, supports Stockholm China Forum, and manages a research project on China’s economic and political transition.

In addition to his work with GMF, Pei is the Tom and Margot Pritzker Professor of Government and director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of From Reform to Revolution: The Demise of Communism in China and the Soviet Union (Harvard University Press, 1994) and China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy (Harvard University Press, 2006). His research has focused on democratization, China’s political development, the Chinese Communist Party, U.S.-China relations, and Chinese foreign policy. Pei is a columnist for L’Espresso and the Indian Express, and a regular contributor to The Diplomat. He has written for the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek International, and the International Herald Tribune. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.

News Articles

Why Mark Zuckerberg should call Rupert Murdoch for advice on ChinaDecember 10, 2014The idea that personal ties with key functionaries of the Chinese state could help clear political barriers may sound appealing, but it’s deeply flawed. Just ask Rupert Murdoch.
Hong Kong’s stand-off is heading for a showdown – and Xi’s future is at stakeDecember 05, 2014Until the escalation in the past couple of weeks of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest, the Chinese government seemed to be winning.
China’s Asia?December 05, 2014Distinguishing diplomatic rhetoric from official policy is never easy. But it is especially difficult in China, where the government’s actions so often fail to match its statements.
Why China Keeps Throwing Trillions In Investments Down The DrainDecember 05, 2014A recent study performed by two economists affiliated with a Chinese state agency found that China’s state investments have becoming alarmingly wasteful and ineffective.
Crony Communism in ChinaOctober 31, 2014When Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption campaign shortly after becoming the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in late 2012, most observers thought he would merely go through the motions, jailing a few senior officials and then carrying on business as usual.
Beijing’s battle plan for Hong KongOctober 02, 2014Hong Kong will likely tolerate the protest and pray for its self-destruction until the end of the month. But after this grace period is over, things could turn very ugly very quickly.
Beyond Sweet Talk and Tempting DealsSeptember 19, 2014As New Delhi gets ready to roll out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping, the question on the minds of most observers is, what exactly does he seek to accomplish during his state visit to India?
Why China is taking a very hard line on Hong KongSeptember 18, 2014Beijing’s staunch resistance to democratic reforms in the former British colony reconfirms a long-standing pattern of rejecting any effort that could remotely undermine its power.
Alibaba’s IPO and the hypocrisy in U.S.-China economic relationsSeptember 17, 2014While Alibaba is readying its massive U.S.-based IPO, Chinese authorities are carrying out tough anti-monopoly enforcement actions against well-known U.S. companies.
China vs. Western companies: Best defense is a strong offenseAugust 12, 2014For more than three decades, Chinese leaders have told foreign CEOs who make the trip to Beijing that they are “friends of China.”
China’s Corruption Conundrum: The Zhou Yongkang CaseAugust 04, 2014The downfall of former Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, who was formally placed under investigation by the Chinese Communist Party, has been greeted with elation in China. Only the demise of Zhou’s political ally and former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai two years ago elicited similar public reaction.
Hunting Tigers in ChinaAugust 04, 2014In the boldest move yet since President Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption campaign, China has announced the start of a formal investigation into “serious disciplinary violations” by one of the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior figures, Zhou Yongkang.
Xi Jinping takes risky path in disposal of ‘tiger’ Zhou YongkangJuly 30, 2014Ever since China’s new leader Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption drive 20 months ago, most observers have been wondering how far and high would he go.
China amps up its battle against the information revolutionJuly 22, 2014About a year ago, China’s new political leadership launched a ferocious crackdown on social media, arresting influential bloggers with millions of followers on weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
BRICS buildingJuly 21, 2014Finally, the BRICS put money where their mouths used to be. At the sixth summit of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), held in Fortaleza, Brazil, the leaders of five of the largest developing economies unveiled the New Development Bank, which is unofficially known as the BRICS bank.
China and Japan Beware: World War I’s Lesson for the East China SeaJuly 02, 2014In November last year, when China declared its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that covers the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and overlaps with Japan’s ADIZ, many warned that Beijing and Tokyo could get into an accidental military clash because their military aircraft would challenge each other in the airspace included in the controversial ADIZ.
Putin’s China pivot: All tactics, no trustMay 27, 2014For those who remember the days when Chinese leaders were supplicants to Moscow, seeking economic aid and diplomatic favors, Russian President Vladimir Putin's state visit to Beijing this week was astonishing, even surreal.
Surviving TiananmenMay 27, 2014It may be hard to imagine, but 25 years ago, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was nearly toppled by a nationwide pro-democracy movement.
Deciphering ModiMay 21, 2014The overwhelming victory of the BJP in India’s general elections raises both hopes and questions, one of which is how the incoming prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has little foreign policy experience, will handle China, India’s neighbour and long-time geopolitical rival.
China-Vietnam standoff at sea: What’s at stakeMay 14, 2014Many view the resource-rich South China Sea as a likely flashpoint in East Asia; one that could ignite both localized military conflicts and drag in the United States. And for good reason.
Why China hates being No. 1May 05, 2014Beijing reacted with thinly disguised animosity to reports that China would overtake the U.S. in 2014 as the world's largest economy. Why? They don't want the responsibility.
China’s Soil Pollution: It’s Much Worse Than You ThinkApril 21, 2014When the Chinese government completed its first national soil pollution survey in 2005, the findings were so alarming that Beijing promptly declared the data a "state secret."
China admits its ills but faces an unpalatable cureMarch 19, 2014Finally, Chinese leaders have admitted what the market has been saying for some time: defaults by Chinese borrowers are all but inevitable, possibly on a significant scale.
How China and America See Each Other And Why They Are on a Collision CourseMarch 12, 2014The United States and China have one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. Until recently, they have been characterized as neither friends nor foes. However, the shifting balance of power is tipping the relationship of these two nations.
Ukraine crisis: Why China is keeping mumMarch 06, 2014For now, Russian president Vladimir Putin has elected not to escalate tensions with the West over Ukraine, giving some hope for a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Kiev.
‘The Contest of the Century,’ by Geoff DyerFebruary 15, 2014The rapid growth of Chinese power in the past three decades has given rise to a thriving cottage industry that has produced numerous books and articles speculating, or even predicting, the inevitable clash between the East Asian giant and the world's sole superpower, the United States.
Is the PLA Going Rogue?February 11, 2014One of the worries many people have about a potential military confrontation between China and its neighbors in East Asia is whether Beijing’s civilian leadership has a firm grip on the military.
Shadow banking: China’s wobbly house of cardsJanuary 30, 2014The prospect of the first major default connected with the Chinese shadow banking system sent shock waves through the financial markets of emerging economies. Expect more close calls to come.
China’s Three Challenges in 2014January 06, 2014Since ascending to the Chinese Communist Party’s top post in November 2012, Xi Jinping has confounded observers.
China’s Game of Chicken in the East China SeaDecember 05, 2013Rising geopolitical tensions between China, Japan, and the U.S. will inevitably have serious economic repercussions. Beijing should have thought twice.
China’s Plenum TestNovember 08, 2013There is something odd and disturbing about the conventional wisdom surrounding the upcoming Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
China’s economy: What change can we reasonably expect?October 29, 2013While it is understandable that investors around the world are rooting for political resolve and policy clarity from Beijing, we should also be realistic about what Chinese leaders can actually deliver.
Wooing China’s PrincelingsOctober 10, 2013China’s “princelings” – the offspring of senior Chinese officials who benefit from lavish privileges in education, employment, and business – are coming under scrutiny as never before.
China’s tragic crackdown on social media activismSeptember 12, 2013The party's war on social media reveals many things, most notably the political orientation of the new leadership.
Why Bo Stole the ShowAugust 26, 2013As show trials go, the drama featuring Bo Xilai, the once-swaggering, media-savvy former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief of Chongqing, veered anomalously into improvisation.
J.P. Morgan and the pitfalls of hiring China’s elite offspringAugust 19, 2013Even if the SEC clears J.P. Morgan of any wrongdoing, the damage to the reputation of the American banking giant will be irreparable.
Bo Xilai’s Trial Exposes Truth About ChinaAugust 06, 2013As the former swaggering princeling prepares for his final humiliation in a Chinese courtroom, he should understand better than anyone the flaws of a system that made -- and destroyed -- him.
How Much Slowdown Can Beijing Tolerate?July 24, 2013The notion of a bottom line for growth and stability is a myth. The truth is more complex.
The Politics of a Slowing ChinaJuly 06, 2013The recent financial turmoil in China, with interbank loan rates spiking to double digits within days, provides further confirmation that the world’s second-largest economy is headed for a hard landing.
Beijing’s New War on ConstitutionJune 09, 2013Xi Jinping and other 'neo-Dengists' are re-asserting the Party's position above the law.
Paranoid RepublicJune 07, 2013No summit can bridge the political gap between Washington and Beijing.
The Real Reason Behind Shuanghui’s Purchase of SmithfieldJune 07, 2013A week after the announcement that Shuanghui International has struck a deal to purchase Smithfield, the largest U.S. pork producer, the development is still being digested.
Days of One-Party Control in China are NumberedJune 07, 2013Leading China scholar Minxin Pei answers readers' questions on China's middle class, relations with the United States and whether the country will ever become truly democratic.
China’s economic reform: Don’t hold your breathMay 28, 2013The breadth of China's recently released economic agenda has led some observers of China to call it radical. But it's too early to celebrate. Here's why.
Asia’s Real Challenge: China’s “Potemkin” RiseMay 06, 2013Low-quality growth has undermined China’s social fabric and individual welfare. It also makes China look far stronger on paper than in reality.
Can China Handle the Crises to Come?April 26, 2013Xi Jinping's legacy will not depend on whether he saved more lives in Lushan or contained the H7N9 bird flu, but on whether he can make China more open, democratic, and livable than it is today.
China’s Dream WorldApril 16, 2013Xi may still be enjoying a honeymoon with the Chinese public, but it is likely to be a short one. His predecessors had ten years to carry out real reforms and accomplished little.
One Soviet Leader China Could Emulate…and It’s Not GorbachevApril 04, 2013The Andropov model seems to be an attractive option to China’s leaders. It won’t be long before they realize that it is a road to nowhere.
China and Russia: Best Frenemies Forever?March 28, 2013China and Russia are still deeply wary of each other. The Xi-Putin play-date was to show Washington it should watch its back.
China’s New Leaders: Don’t Get Your Hopes UpMarch 08, 2013The only good news coming from the pending leadership changes is the near-certainty of the end of China's one-child policy.
China’s Income Gap Solution: Too Little, Too Late?February 20, 2013Few would disagree that reducing China's disturbingly high level of income inequality is one of the most difficult but critical challenges facing the nation's new leadership.
Five Ways China Could Become a DemocracyFebruary 13, 2013Few have seriously thought about the probability and the various plausible scenarios of a regime transition in China -- until now.
China’s Environment: An Economic Death SentenceJanuary 28, 2013Given decades of environmental neglect and China's heavy reliance on coal, it would be difficult to produce a dramatic improvement quickly.
Would China Block Korean Unification?January 27, 2013Instead of obstructing Korean reunification, Beijing must embrace it and place its chips on the side of Seoul.
The Tocqueville ParadoxJanuary 11, 2013China has found itself in a paradox as the softening of repression is more likely to make the existing form of repression even less tolerable.
Minxin Pei: China’s Liberals Test Xi JinpingJanuary 09, 2013The mini-crisis sparked by protest against ham-fisted censorship at a Chinese newspaper seems to have been temporarily defused.
The Bullies of Beijing: China’s Image ProblemDecember 15, 2012Military and political actions by the Chinese government have strained diplomatic relations with its neighbors.
Regime Change in China?December 13, 2012While the future of China is unpredictable, the durability of its post-totalitarian regime can be estimated with some confidence.
From Hu to XiNovember 28, 2012Now that the Communist Party of China has completed its once-in-a-decade transfer of power, has it overcome the fatal flaws that befall authoritarian regimes?
The U.S.-China ResetNovember 14, 2012China needs a new approach to stabilize the deteriorating security relationship with the United States.
Beijing fakes the good fight against its own corruptionNovember 05, 2012China is paying a huge price for its kleptocracy. Corruption has made its economy less efficient and more risky, inequality has worsened and the regime's legitimacy has dived.
Why Beijing prefers ObamaNovember 05, 2012The tight U.S. presidential race has raised anxieties around about the future of American foreign policy. Nowhere is the level of uncertainty and fear higher than in Beijing.
China’s Troubled BourbonsOctober 31, 2012Sometimes the books that a country’s top leaders read can reveal a lot about what they are thinking.
Sorry World: What Happens in Beijing, WON’T Stay in BeijingOctober 22, 2012While many have feared its rise, a weaker China struggling with economic and political challenges at home may present an even greater challenge.
Past Choppy WatersOctober 15, 2012Beijing and Tokyo return to positions of pragmatism over the East China Sea
Is China’s Communist Party Doomed?October 01, 2012Could Beijing's ruling elite succumb to the same fate as those in the former Soviet Union? Perhaps.
Beijing’s Bargain of a DecadeOctober 01, 2012The twin announcements coming out of Beijing last Friday may strike most as an incongruous pair.
Xi Jinping’s Reappearance Points to Leadership WoesSeptember 18, 2012The presumptive next leader of China, has resurfaced after nearly two weeks out of public sight. What will the implications be for Chinese politics?
Tokyo and Beijing must step back from the brinkSeptember 18, 2012With their economies struggling and domestic politics in disarray, the last thing leaders in China and Japan need now is a foreign policy crisis.
Are Chinese Banks Hiding “The Mother of All Debt Bombs”?September 10, 2012China's massive bank financed stimulus was intended to keep the economy moving. It may instead lead to economic disaster.
China’s Trust ProblemSeptember 03, 2012Beijing’s “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development” slogan has lost its appeal, if not credibility.
Everything You Think You Know About China Is WrongAugust 29, 2012Are we obsessing about its rise when we should be worried about its fall?
China in the Eye of the BeholderAugust 27, 2012One of the most glaring, if unremarked, oddities concerning China nowadays is how perceptions of its leaders diverge depending on the observer.
Where Winning is EverythingAugust 09, 2012Winning Olympic medals, like clocking the speed of economic growth, adds gloss to the image of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Superpower Denied? Why China’s ‘Rise’ May Have Already PeakedAugust 09, 2012How a toxic mix of economic, demographic, environmental, political, and international challenges could end China's ascent.
What China’s Leaders Fear MostJuly 30, 2012How the powerful lose power and what happens to them afterwards can tell us a great deal about the nature of the political regime in which they thrive and perish.
Party and the PatriotJuly 21, 2012

It has become clear that the relationship between nationalism and democracy is most likely determined by a specific national context, but is Chinese nationalism bad for democracy?

The Chinese AwakeningJuly 20, 2012Like a share listed on an exchange, the world's perception of China fluctuates as foreigners go from bullish to bearish. One gauge of how the country's image is faring is the latest crop of China books.
Why Making China ‘The Boogeyman’ Won’t WorkJuly 17, 2012

These days it is rare to see Congressional Republicans and Democrats unified on anything, much less speak with one voice. But when they do, the result is not necessarily good.

Beijing Plays Divide and Conquer to Win in South China SeaJuly 17, 2012

In the long-simmering South China Sea dispute, the territorial argument is becoming a flashpoint for armed conflict and an increasingly sharp-elbowed strategic tussle between the U.S. and China.

Survival Guide for One-Party RegimesJuly 10, 2012

The return of the PRI  to power through a democratic process should encourage the Chinese Communist Party to think outside the box and start a process of political transformation.

The End Of China’s Economic MiracleJuly 09, 2012

Twenty years ago, Japan experienced the humiliation of going from world economic champ to chump within a few years of its financial meltdown. Today it seems to be China’s turn.

The Rise of the Rest and the Return of Spheres of InfluenceMay 28, 2012

The question being asked most often today is whether rising powers, such as India, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey, will help maintain the post-WWII liberal order by contributing to its costly maintenance.This may not be the right question to answer.


Exploring Emerging Domestic Drivers of Chinese Foreign PolicyApril 14, 2014

This policy brief analyzes the emergence of some of the key domestic actors and forces that devise Chinese foreign policymaking.