Student Blog — Claire Huitt | China’s Evolving Economy and Society


Claire Huitt interviews Dr. Andrew Walder after his lecture at the Tower Center Sept. 29.

China of the last four decades, with its heavily centralized bureaucracy and its exponential economic growth, is a far cry from the first three decades of the People’s Republic of China, yet the remnants of the Maoist era still greatly affect post-Mao China. Mao’s policies and campaigns such as the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution profoundly influenced China’s development. In his talk at the Tower Center Sept. 29, Dr. Andrew Walder, a prominent sociologist from Stanford University, found that precedents set by the Cultural Revolution have helped further China’s development through political reform.

Four conditions for reform

The delegitimization of Maoism, and Deng Xiaoping’s gradual and experimental economic reform were made possible by four circumstances that necessitated such change: (1) The Cultural Revolution destroyed the bureaucracy of the Party. China had been reduced to a military dictatorship, a disorganized mess, that greatly contrasted the long-established Soviet bureaucracy. (2) China was so backward it was falling behind competitors. (3) Deng Xiaoping was an established authority within the Party because of Mao’s initial support. (4) The extremism of the Cultural Revolution led Mao to denounce the USSR and strengthen China’s relationship with the U.S.

China’s bureaucracy destroyed

Paradoxically, one reason the Chinese Communist Party survived was due to the massive failure of the Cultural Revolution. Walder juxtaposed these circumstances against the conditions of the Soviet Union to show just how different China and Russia were in the 1970s. Russia was industrialized and bureaucratic while China faced starvation and a lack of education. “If asked which communist power would be a modern economic power you would have said Russia; you would have been wrong,” Walder said.

The bureaucracy of the CCP was not rebuilt until after Mao’s death in 1976. The Party was held together only by the military from 1967 to 1973. Education “missed an entire generation” of Chinese youth. Simply put, China was left longing for something new after the trauma of the Cultural Revolution. They had nothing to lose and were therefore open to large-scale reform. Conversely, the Soviet Union rested upon a strong central bureaucracy. For them, political reform was too risky.


The second condition, China’s “backwardness”, also encouraged economic reform. China was a flat line of economic growth in comparison to major powers of the time. Its economy was comparable to that of India, Pakistan or Bangladesh especially during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Market failure created a need for a “second economy.” This economy was a self-reliant and informal system that highlighted China’s underlying entrepreneurial spirit. It was also during this time that the guanxi economy began to spread. Local officials would host unofficial markets for goods.

The Chinese were relying on technology transported from USSR in the 1950s. There had been no technological advancements or upgrades since the Great Leap Forward. Additionally, Chinese research and development was destroyed by the rustication of intellectuals and the lack of academic exchanges with the outside world. In comparison, the Soviet Union was the second largest economy until 1988 when it was surpassed by Japan. It was a strong military power with advanced scientific technology and high economic growth rates.

New leadership

The third condition was China’s leadership. The last years of Mao’s life gave Deng Xiaoping the power he needed for future market reform. He became identified for rebuilding the party state. Deng had strong revolutionary ties and was largely regarded as a national authority. He is historically noted as the father of the revival of China and market reform. In contrast, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time, was a relatively new member of the Party and a weak leader. When the USSR began to slip, Gorbachev lacked the authority or power to save the Soviet Union or the Party.

Turn to the West

The fourth and final condition necessary to bring about modern Chinese success was the “turn to the West”. After the Sino-Soviet split and Richard Nixon’s visit to China, the CCP helped forge an anti-Soviet coalition alongside the United States. This led to technological investment by the West from both Japan and the U.S. As a result, the Soviet Union was increasingly isolated, ultimately leading to the collapse of the USSR. By turning to the West, China opened itself and its economy to the world, ushering in a new era of Chinese growth.

China has nearly come full circle in less than half a century. Today, China is highly centralized with great economic success and nationalism. The CCP’s modern obsession with stability comes from the Mao Era’s history of instability. This leaves today’s leaders, particularly Xi Jingping, thinking that reform is nearly impossible. Like the Soviets in the 1970s, there’s a lot to lose. After almost 40 years of strong bureaucratic management, heavily integrated vested interests block reform despite Xi’s Anti-Corruption Campaign.  With enormous wealth for those connected to the system, heavy financing from state banks, and general income inequality, there’s little impetus for further change.

claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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Latinos in Dallas-Fort Worth are changing the bottom-line for area grocers

The Dallas Morning News reported that the 2.2 million Hispanics living in Dallas-Fort Worth spend an average of $582 per household on groceries each month.

Area grocers are competing for their share, and according to Tower Center Associate Edward Rincón, president of the research firm Rincón & Associates, Fiesta Mart is losing market share among native-born Latinos to Wal-Mart.

“There is a new battle for Hispanic shoppers, both immigrants and native born,  heating up with Wal-Mart and other stores adding options to appeal to consumers who want the fresh ingredients, flavors and brands they grew up with,” DMN reporter Maria Halkias wrote.

Read the full DMN article here.

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TC Associate Edward Rincón | How trustworthy are polls?

As Arlington residents prepare to vote on the proposed $1 billion Texas Rangers stadium Nov. 8, Tower Center Associate Edward Rincón examined the public opinion polls leading up to the vote. He found short-comings in all of them.

“Sponsors of public opinion polls do not always place much value in accurately measuring public opinion as reflected by their polling practices.

Good or bad, these polls can influence voting outcomes on issues like the Texas Rangers stadium ballot measure,” Rincón said.

Take a look at the six factors he advises to consider before trusting a poll.

Read the full blog here.

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Why the U.S. leaked its war plan in Iraq

Tower Chair Joshua Rovner coauthored an editorial with political scientist Caitlin Talmadge, “The U.S. just leaked its war plan in Iraq. Why?” in the Washington Post.

Rovner and Talmadge argue that the Islamic State might not be the intended audience of the leak — they know a battle for Mosul is coming eventually anyway.

“The United States might be trying to signal its own trustworthiness as a partner, stiffen the backs of unmotivated Iraqi forces, create a fait accompli with regards to campaign planning, or some combination of the above,” they wrote.

Read the article here.

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Student Blog | Brexit will cost the UK, EU

Dr. Harold Clarke opens the discussion at the Tower Center Student Forum event, “A Brexit Discussion” Oct. 7.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has come to the forefront of foreign policy discussions across the world. In the Tower Center Student Forum’s most recent event, A Brexit Discussion, scholars Dr. Harold Clarke of the University of Texas at Dallas and Dr. Lorinc Redei of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, shared opinions regarding the outcome of upcoming UK/EU negotiations and the precedent set by Brexit. Clarke provided an analysis of politics and public opinion leading to Brexit, while Redei examined Brexit from the EU’s perspective.

Dr. Harold Clarke: The politics and public opinion leading to Brexit

This has been a long time coming. A third of voters voted to leave the EU in 1975. While Euroscepticism was a minority view, it still had a presence in UK politics. Such sentiment was only furthered by the Maastricht Treaty of 1990 which expanded the EU outside of free trade and made it a political project. As a reaction to the increasing integration of Europe and the increasing prominence of Euroscepticism, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a right-wing populist party, was founded in 1993. Ultimately UKIP became the formal movement Brexit needed to be successful.


Clarke said that there has always been a great deal of volatility in public opinion. Brexit wasn’t just about demographic division or regular voting lines; partisan cues were far weaker in this vote. From 2010 to June 22nd, 2016, this battle was closely fought. Just two days prior to the vote Remain had a two point lead, but still “the world ended” June 24. Leave was not a nationwide consensus. UGOV polling showed that while Wales and England had a majority leave vote, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. The youth population and the upper-class elites both voted to remain as well; surprisingly, there was no gender difference.

Short-term forces

Clarke stressed the fact that Brexit was the result of short-term forces. Both Remain and Leave ran largely negative campaigns. From the Remain camp, also referred to as “Project Fear”, rhetoric focused on the costs of leaving rather than the benefits of staying. Former Prime Minister David Cameron relied heavily on the influence of others’ intimidation. From President Barack Obama to the Prime Minister of Sweden to David Beckham, the Remain campaign used famous faces to convey a daunting message – leaving the EU would be tremendously costly. Similarly, the Leave campaign’s success relied on the population’s perception of risk. By disseminating fear that the UK would drown in immigrants, lose its sovereignty, democracy, and culture, proponents of leaving the EU played off the emotions of voters. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and the Leave campaign, and Boris Johnson played a pivotal role in Leave’s victory. While Farage has a negative or “rough” reputation, Johnson is extremely popular. His massive influence led to the phrase, “No Boris, No Brexit.”

Evaluating Brexit

In the wake of Brexit, the media and elites trashed the electorate and shamed the majority of voters for their choice. Many have said that Brexit was the result of poor voter turnout and that it isn’t representative of the full electorate’s opinion. Yet for all the criticism of the voters, Clarke stated that Brexit is the result of weak partisan cues and strong short-term forces.

redei_cropDr. Lorinc Redei: Brexit from the EU perspective

Brexit is a clash of politics not economics. According to Redei, it is about sovereignty and controlling borders. The UK only has two options in the upcoming proceedings: (1) They can stay in the single market and accept the free movement of people, or (2) they can stay in only with “one little toe.” The first option would  be politically worse and leave the UK no role in the decision-making processes of the EU. The second option wouldn’t be much better as it would come at tremendous economic cost to the UK. No matter what comes of the upcoming UK/EU talks, the UK government will be very unpopular at home.

From the EU side

The rest of the EU hates the United Kingdom. Major EU problems such as the Greek financial crisis, the immigration crisis, and youth unemployment, will be swept under the rug for the next two years while the EU negotiates with the UK. As a result, the EU will drive a hard bargain. Three factors the UK needs to keep in mind during negotiations: (1) the EU holds the cards, (2) the EU will resist giving the UK any kind of special deal in order to prevent other member states from demanding the same, and (3) the result will showcase the benefits versus costs of leaving the EU. With so much negativity surrounding Brexit (the pound is now at a 30-year low against the dollar), this is a perfect opportunity for the EU to discourage other member states from withdrawing.

Long-term effects

Despite the upper hand of the EU, Redei said that a hard Brexit will cause fallout in the long term. The first repercussion is Brexit will usher in a trend of European disintegration. Aside from Greenland, this is the first real geographic reduction to the EU in an otherwise upward trend of increasing integration. There’s no precedent for the transference of policy from the EU back to the member states, but now, because of Brexit, states will consider the renationalization of policies. Already, the UK has sparked repatriation in other European states, as seen in Hungary with both their referendum on asylum and their hard border with Serbia.

The second repercussion is the unpreventable portrayal of Brexit as the UK verses the EU, with the EU as the monster, “trampling on good ole’ Brits.” It’s already causing a strong wave of anti-Europeanism. In light of both of these, Brexit will likely come at a great cost not only to the UK, but also to the entire European Union.

Listen to “A Brexit Discussion”:

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claire_huitClaire Huitt is a senior at Southern Methodist University triple majoring in public policy, economics, and political science with a focus on international relations and the Asian Pacific. She is a Bauer Scholar in Political Science, Hamilton Scholar, Engaged Learning Fellow, a representative of IGNITE Women in Politics, Chair on Asian Pacific Relations with the Tower Center Student Forum, Dedman School of Law Pre-Law Scholar, New Century Scholar, and a member of the University Honors Program. After graduation Claire intends to attend law school and pursue a career in international law and foreign affairs.

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Cal Jillson Provides Historical Precedent to Nasty 2016 Campaigns

Tower Center Associate Cal Jillson provided historical precedent to the nasty campaigning seen in the 2016 election in an interview with WFAA. He said Thomas Jefferson and John Adams also engaged in personal attacks during their campaigns in 1800.

Jillson doesn’t seem to think the strategy, especially during the debates, is helping Donald Trump expand his voter base.

“He solidified his base of 40 percent, but he didn’t grow it at all,” Jillson said. “And 40 percent doesn’t win you a presidential election.”

Debate number three, coming up next week on Oct. 19, could be uglier than the last two, according to Jillson and another expert interviewed.

Read the WFAA article here.

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Event Recap | How the 1968 election affects politics today


Michael Cohen opens his talk at the Tower Center discussing his book “American Maelstrom” with Tower Chair Joshua Rovner and Center for Presidential History’s Thomas Knock.

Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen visited the Tower Center Oct. 6 to discuss his book, “American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division,” and the 2016 election.

Introducing Cohen, Thomas Knock of the Center for Presidential History said understanding what happened in 1968 holds “inestimable importance to understanding the politics of our time.”

George Wallace set the stage for Donald Trump

George Wallace ran as an independent in the 1968 election. Comparable to today’s GOP nominee Donald Trump, he capitalized on the fears of the people and blamed the government for the unstable environment the country was facing at the time of the election. Cohen pointed out that Wallace’s ideology was not conservative as much as it was reactionary. Wallace was a liberal on every issue except for race. True conservatives hate and fear Trump for that same reason, according to Cohen.

“The root of Trump’s success is that he appeals to nativism and racism,” Cohen said.

Though Wallace only won 13 percent of the vote, Cohen wrote in his book’s introduction that “his campaign rhetoric depicting an out-of-control federal government and his outreach to alienated white working-class Americans would within four years become the idiom of Republican politics.”

Changing demographics

The 2016 primaries proved that a Republican candidate cannot win the party nomination without first winning over the nativist crowd mentioned above. However, demographics are changing, and they could force the GOP to shift its strategy to appeal to a wider portion of the electorate. “I had hoped we’d get to the end of ’68 politics this election because the demographics would demand it,” Cohen said. Though this wasn’t the case, he says eventually it will be.

Anti-government sentiment

One of the most harmful repercussions of 1968, according to Cohen, was that it changed how Washington works. People are more hostile toward government, which makes it more difficult for anything to be accomplished. He wrote that voters began “fostering an almost reflexive resistance to any new government initiative.”

This idea of anti-establishment has been especially effective for the Republican party, as seen by the ‘Tea Party Takeover‘ that gained momentum in 2010 with candidates like Rand Paul and Ron Johnson winning seats. Cohen said that while it is surprising that Trump, the man, won the nomination, it’s not surprising he won on an anti-establishment campaign.

The importance of social issues

Are we stuck with the politics of 1968 forever? Maybe not. Social issues have played an increasingly important role in the election. Voters are increasingly motivated by issues of identity. Cohen sited a 15-point shift in college educated women who moved away from supporting the Republican nominee. “This has nothing to do with economics,” he said. “This is the Trump effect.”

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Student Blog — Madeleine Case | How voters think and learn about elections

SMU student Madeleine Case interviewed Arthur Lupia, professor of political science at the University of Michigan

SMU student Madeleine Case interviewed Dr. Arthur Lupia, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, before his Tower Center lecture “I’ll See it When I Believe it: How Voters Think and Learn about elections” Sept. 21.

Since the turn of the 21st century, technology has allowed political news to spread further, faster, and to an expanding audience. However, this appears to have had no impact on the level of interest that this audience takes with political news. With every election season, the people voting seem to stay uninformed. In his lecture at the Tower Center Sept. 21, Dr. Arthur Lupia, author of “Uninformed: Why People Seem to Know So Little about Politics and What We Can Do about It,”addressed this concern in the form of four specific questions: 1) Why are so few voters informed; 2) How much does a voter need to know; 3) How do voters learn this information; and 4) Should we be cynical?

Lupia argued that it is not the voters’ job to be informed. Instead, it is up to the informers to communicate information to the voters despite the reality of media overload — they need to be more interesting than cat videos.

Why are so few voters informed?

The answer to this question was simple: We are all uninformed. Although experts may have far greater experience in the political field than the average voter, no one on earth could ever have every piece of political knowledge to make a completely informed decision. As an example, Lupia asked if anyone had read through every single law that was passed by Congress this past year, which on average is roughly 200 laws. No one raised their hand. “There are two groups of voters,” Lupia said. “Those that know that they can’t know everything, and those that are delusional about how much they know about politics.”

How much does a voter need to know?

According to Lupia, how much a voter needs to know depends on the person. “How much should I eat?” he asked. “The answer varies if you’re a marathoner or a baby.” Most people vote for what is most consistent with their values. Identifying with a political party can simplify the decision-making process. It acts as a cue, or a practical shortcut answer to achieve an ultimate goal. Voters can use their party affiliation as a brand name and trust that they are voting for what aligns with their values without being familiar every piece of legislation in D.C.

How do voters learn?

When it comes to attention span, humans only have room in their minds to think about seven plus-or-minus two “chunks” at a time. That means “when you’re trying to talk to someone about politics, there are only seven plus-or-minus two parking spaces,” he said. Not only that, but politicians are now competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of other forms of entertainment on mass media today—like cat videos — for those parking spaces. Because of this, Lupia argued that it is important for political experts to make their messages urgent, simple, and direct.

He offered the Remain camp in the Brexit campaign as an example of how this message idea failed. The slogan of the Leave campaign was “We send the EU 350 million pounds a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.”  The Remain slogan was “Britain stronger in Europe.” Lupia argued this slogan was obscure and ineffective compared to the Leave slogan: “What does it mean, and can I eat it?” he said. Even by using the term “Brexit,” Lupia said the Remain campaign was feeding into the urgent, seemingly simple solution that the Leave campaign was offering.

It is up to the experts, not the voters, to listen to their audience and see the audience on their own terms. They will never be able to communicate political news to voters if they cannot figure out what the voters care about, and then spend time crafting a simple, direct message.

Should We Be Cynical?

Lupia’s answer to this last question was yes and no. “Politics is people. It’s your choice,” he said. He believes voters can affect their classrooms, offices, communities, and cities by choosing to communicate effectively about politics. So whether or not we should be cynical about the future of political information sharing depends on who’s making that choice, and how involved they want to be.

My takeaway

I would argue that Lupia’s points are just as relevant to university professors, corporate sales people, or presenters across all professions. In my interview with Lupia before his presentation, he described his class environment at the University of Michigan. Throughout the semester, Lupia and his students discuss political issues. On the board, Lupia displays a map of the classroom, and students stand in the area that pertains to their beliefs on an issue. For their final exam, students choose one of those topics, stand at the front of the room, and change their classmates’ minds. Lupia said the key to changing their minds, just like changing voters’ minds, is “focusing on the the students and changing a presentation so that it is useful” to the audience so that “they hear their story.”

Listen to Dr. Arthur Lupia’s lecture:

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caseheadshotMadeleine Case is a SMU junior from Dallas majoring in English and international studies with a minor in mathematics. She is a President’s Scholar, SMU Ambassador, and is currently working with Dr. Hiroki Takeuchi as a Hamilton Scholar researching comparative authoritarianism in state-society relations.

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Executive Director Luisa del Rosal profiled in the Daily Campus

Luisa del Rosal, newly appointed executive director of the Tower Center and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center, was profiled in the Daily Campus by SMU student Allison Plake.

“As the first female, Hispanic executive director for the Tower Center, she hopes to raise awareness against cultural stereotypes and provide an inviting platform for the SMU community and the public to discuss difficult topics,” Plake wrote.

Read the full story here.

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Q&A | Tower Scholar studies trade, U.S. leadership

The Tower Center sat down with Tower Scholar Matthew Reitz, class of 2017, to discuss his research on U.S.-Japan security, and more recently, free trade. Reitz, a political science and international studies major, spent June studying in Japan with Professor Hiroki Takeuchi. He is now pursuing a research project with Hunt Mexico examining the effects of free trade agreements on labor wages.

Why did you choose Asia as you area of focus for the international studies major?

We’re living in the Asia Century. Asian states have rapidly developed their economies in the past 70 years, and now they’re beginning to play an increasingly important role in international relations and global governance. These states are contributing to peacekeeping and economic development but they’re also competing for resources and prestige, and they are modernizing their militaries. The United States has a lot of opportunity in the Asia-Pacific to demonstrate its leadership, foster cooperation to avoid conflict, and enable economic growth for all parties, but  we need to play an active role in the region. We need people who understand Asia’s history, its cultures and its peoples.

What stood out to you about the culture in Japan?matthewjapancrop

I was in a hurry to get to the campus library one morning and forgot to turn off the fan in
my room. When I came home later that day, my host mom told me people in Japan are conscious of wasting energy and reminded me to be more careful in the future to avoid leaving electronics on. This is just one example of the environmental awareness I saw while in Japan. In America, many of us leave our lights on at night, throw our recycling into trash cans or leave the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s different in Japan. They take efforts to minimize their environmental impact and its part of their daily life.

What do you consider to be the most pressing security issue for the U.S.-Japan relationship?

 The most pressing concern for the U.S.-Japan security relationship is managing the rise of China. China could be a responsible international player or an aggressive one that attempts to rewrite the rules in its own favor. The United States, being the dominant power and protector in the Pacific, and Japan, being a major regional power, naturally need to work together to engage China diplomatically to ensure peace.

Your research for Hunt-Mexico switches focus from security to free-trade. What impact do you expect to find free trade agreements have on labor wages?

Changing from security issues in the Pacific to examining the impact of trade at home lets me research a global issue that has significant ramifications locally. In this election cycle we see a lot of hot air about “free trade” versus “fair trade.” Many Americans feel left behind by agreements like NAFTA and are worried that agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership could have the same effect. Examining the impacts of trade on a specific sector like energy will help create a greater understanding of trade for policy-makers and activists alike.

I suspect to find that NAFTA positively impacted energy-sector wages for skilled workers since it significantly reduced barriers to trade and increased investment in capital and infrastructure. The energy sector was one of NAFTA’s big economic winners but there’s still the question of how unskilled workers were impacted. I suspect NAFTA had adverse effects on unskilled workers since there’s greater access to cheap labor. This likely would have depressed wages as major energy companies could look across the border if local wages are too high.

How has the Tower Scholar program shaped your goals and aspirations for the future?

Even before becoming a Tower Scholar, I always had this hunch I’d end up doing something in the international relations field. The Tower Scholar Program, from the Iran Nuclear Deal case project last year to my free trade research this year, builds a solid foundation for me to do so. I hope to enter the State Department’s Foreign Service one day and serve the United States. as a diplomat. The Tower Scholar Program has taught me how to think critically and strategically, work on a team with diverse view points, and undertake independent research, all of which will prove invaluable in my future endeavors.

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