Pekingology 2024: U.S. Think Tank Revives Lost Art of Understanding China

    by Sidney Hunt
    Published: July 2, 2024 (2 weeks ago)

    In a bid to decode the complexities of Chinese politics and policy-making, a prominent U.S. think tank has embarked on a renewed effort to revive the art of “Pekingology,” a term once synonymous with the meticulous study and analysis of Beijing’s opaque governance.

    The initiative, spearheaded by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., aims to deepen understanding of China’s evolving political landscape and strategic objectives amid shifting global dynamics. Drawing on historical methodologies and contemporary insights, experts at CSIS are reexamining traditional approaches to interpreting Chinese leadership dynamics, policy priorities, and diplomatic maneuvers.

    “Pekingology,” originally coined during the Cold War era, gained prominence as analysts scrutinized Beijing’s statements, leadership changes, and policy pronouncements for insights into the Communist Party’s inner workings and strategic intentions. Over time, the term fell out of favor as China’s economic rise and global integration presented new dimensions and challenges for observers.

    The resurgence of interest in Pekingology comes at a critical juncture marked by heightened U.S.-China tensions, technological competition, and geopolitical rivalries. Analysts at CSIS emphasize the importance of nuanced understanding and context-driven analysis in navigating the complexities of U.S.-China relations and shaping effective policy responses.

    Key aspects of the revived Pekingology approach include tracking leadership dynamics within the Chinese Communist Party, deciphering policy deliberations on critical issues such as technology, trade, and national security, and anticipating Beijing’s responses to international developments.

    The initiative underscores a broader trend among Western think tanks and academic institutions to adapt traditional methodologies to contemporary challenges in understanding and engaging with China. By leveraging historical insights and interdisciplinary expertise, analysts seek to provide policymakers with informed perspectives on navigating U.S.-China relations and addressing emerging global challenges.

    As the study of China continues to evolve in response to geopolitical shifts and domestic developments, the revival of Pekingology reflects a commitment to rigorous analysis and dialogue aimed at promoting mutual understanding and managing strategic competition in an increasingly interconnected world.

    The CSIS initiative signals a renewed focus on deepening expertise and fostering informed debate on China’s role in global affairs, reaffirming the enduring relevance of Pekingology in shaping strategic assessments and policy decisions in Washington and beyond.

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