Jeremy L. WallaceDec 18, 2022
Seeking Truth and Hiding Facts
Information, Ideology, and Authoritarianism in China
Oxford University Press 2022
For decades, a few numbers came to define Chinese politics--until those numbers did not count what mattered and what they counted did not measure up.
Seeking Truth and Hiding Facts: Information, Ideology, and Authoritarianism in China (Oxford UP, 2022) argues that the Chinese government adopted a system of limited, quantified vision in order to survive the disasters unleashed by Mao Zedong's ideological leadership. Political scientist Jeremy Wallace explains how that system worked and analyzes how the problems that accumulated in its blind spots led Xi Jinping to take drastic action. Xi's neopolitical turn--aggressive anti-corruption campaigns, reassertion of party authority, and personalization of power--is an attempt fix the problems of the prior system, as well as a hedge against an inability to do so. The book argues that while of course dictators stay in power through coercion and cooptation, they also do so by convincing their populations and themselves of their right to rule. Quantification is one tool in this persuasive arsenal, but it comes with its own perils.
Jeremy Wallace is an associate professor of Government at Cornell University, who studies authoritarianism with a focus on China, cities, statistics, and climate change. His academic research has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the China Quarterly, International Organization, and other prominent journals. His popular writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the LA Times, and Foreign Policy. His first book was Cities and Stability: Urbanization, Redistribution, and Regime Survival in China.
This episode is co-hosted by Lizzi C. Lee, an MIT-trained economist who is currently working as a reporter and host in Chinese for the New York-based independent media outlet Wall Street TV and in English for ChinaEdge, which is part of the English language media company The China Project.
Host Peter Lorentzen is the Chair of the Economics Department at the University of San Francisco. His research focus is the political economy of governance in China. He is a member of the National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSCR) and USF’s new Center on Business Studies and Innovation in the Asia-Pacific.