Global Times Responds to David Shambaugh

March 9, 2015 Updated: March 10, 2015

It’s a regular favorite of China watchers: What is Global Times, the state-run, inflammatory nationalist rag, saying on the topic of the moment?

Global Times editorials have defended the blocking of Gmail, attacked Western news reporters in China for playing politics, and chastised American ambassador Gary Locke for buying his own coffee at Starbucks.

But the topic of the moment, of course, is the recent op-ed penned by Professor David Shambaugh of George Washington University, a well-known and erstwhile upbeat scholar of Chinese politics. His piece, “The Coming Chinese Crackup,” published in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, announced that “The endgame of communist rule in China has begun, and Xi Jinping’s ruthless measures are only bringing the country closer to a breaking point.”

The piece goes on to identify a range of what Shambaugh considers largely intractable political and economic problems that will eventually bring the Communist Party to its knees.

The Global Times riposte could have written itself. The piece introduces Shambaugh and his op-ed, and says that because he had previously done some “positive interpretations” of China, he was classified as a “moderate scholar towards China.” But all that’s now changed.

“Recently he has begun fiercely criticising China, highlighting a trend in American academia.”

“Whether Shambaugh has recently joined the opportunists or this is a true reflection of his changed views on China in his declining years, this will all be proven to have been his ‘faulty stroke’ in his scholarly research. His research on China lacks depth and consistency, and in the end he cannot escape the interference of Western values or political patterns on his research. He’s become as vulgar as Gordon Chang—relying on ‘divining’ China’s future to attract the eyeballs of Western public opinion.”

Global Times says that if mainstream American scholarship on China comes to have the same “rollercoaster logic” character of Shambaugh, then “that will lead people to be disappointed.” Global Times has noticed recently that while American scholars have access to a great deal of material, their research conclusions always bear the hallmarks of their political stances, and they are “highly ideological.”

David Shambaugh should realise that his personal experiences and thoughts are limited, and he is cut off from non-Western understandings. He should be “highly alert” to this.

Later, readers are reminded that “Shambaugh’s alarmist talk does remind Chinese society of one thing: even America’s ‘moderate’ scholars all long for something to happen to China!”

The piece says that Shambaugh’s analysis has “let slip” the “true thoughts” of “quite a few” Westerners. It continues: “The West has never thought that China might have a ‘peaceful democratic transition’; their goal is simply for ‘China to collapse’—and they never consider the well-being of the Chinese people.”

And now, for the peroration we’ve all been waiting for: “If David Shambaugh becomes a vanguard agitator for the ‘China collapse theory’, then his academic end will be a tragedy. He is obviously more enthusiastic about his internal contradictions, emotionalism, and obsession with alarmist conclusions than with searching for new evidence. This has already become a matter of his scholarly work and personal integrity—not merely a question of the correctness or incorrectness of his scholarly conclusion.

“Most scholars live in their respective societies, and not fawning to that environment is an ever-present trial. Chinese scholars have this problem, and it seems American scholars do too. We ask David Shambaugh to conduct himself with dignity and carefully consider his views.”