This week on the China Business Brief, Professor Todd Hall shares his top tips for ‘China watching’, in a wide-ranging discussion with CBBC’s Joe Cash on the most common punditry pitfalls afflicting those in the business of analysing China’s current affairs. Spoiler alert: the term ‘China watching’ makes its way onto the list!
The director of the University of Oxford China Centre, Todd Hall is a professor of international relations with a research focus on international relations theory; the intersection of emotion, affect, and foreign policy; and Chinese foreign policy. Todd talks about why he finds it odd that when writing about America, analysts refrain from talking about the Eagle, but in the case of China, the Dragon is synonymous with China’s historic sweep back to the 15th Century voyages of Zheng He.
Last year, Todd published an essay titled “I’ll tell you something about China,” in which he explains how a growing volume of essentialist readings, often written by non-China specialists, on topics such as how the CCP sees itself and the difference between Western and Chinese culture, only serve to further muddy the political waters that China specialists have spent so long trying to sieve through.
After all, as Todd explains, when you think about it, pronouncements such as “the Chinese think about strategy in terms of the game of go, whereas Westerners think about the game of chess… are a lot like horoscopes: They’re so broad that you could almost expand them to fit anything – explain any behaviour – but at the same time, they’re really bad for planning your day!”
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Todd Hall, “I'll tell you something about China': Thoughts on the Specialist Study of the International Relations of the People's Republic of China,” St Antony’s International Review 16, no.1 (August, 2020): 184-190.