2019 Camden Conference


Join us for the 32nd Annual Camden Conference



February 22, 23, 24, 2019

More than 600 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, and President Xi Jinping promises to eliminate poverty in his country by 2020.  China’s emerging middle class seeks an ever-rising standard of living.  Chinese investment on all continents is both welcomed and regarded with some anxiety, while Chinese diplomatic intervention has been essential to stability on the Korean peninsula and China is attracting European as well as Asian nations to new multilateral institutions.  In Beijing, the absolute authority of the Chinese Communist Party has been reconfirmed, and President Xi now has the option to remain his country’s leader for as long as he wishes.

On the other side of the globe, America’s role in global affairs may be less predictable than at any time in recent history.  How long will the US economy be #1?   How strong is the US commitment to alliances, treaties and rules that shaped post-war world order?   Is American democracy strong – or vulnerable?   What role in global affairs do Americans want for their country?

“Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind” can help solve global problems, says President Xi.  But Is China ready for global leadership?   And if its global role expands, by intention or by default, what will that mean for the United States, for Japan, India, Russia and other neighboring nations?

The 2019 Camden Conference will explore what is happening inside China today and how this will affect China’s international role.  We will start by asking what historical events have shaped China’s global ambitions, what its leaders’ current priorities are, and how they assess the ambitions of other nations. Speakers will then look inside Chinese society today, exploring the important demographic challenges the country now faces, the relationship between the individual and authority, the rural-urban divide, confrontation over dissent and the rights of minorities, and the role of the Internet and social media.

Next, we will explore the Communist Party’s leadership and its control over individual lives, the workplace, media and other institutions.  The Chinese economy is now the world’s second largest and probably on a path to become #1.  Among the topics our speaker will address: how the Communist Party exerts authority over the Chinese economy, the role of the military, the extent of Chinese investment abroad, and the impact of China’s Belt and Road project.  Another speaker will focus on China’s aspirations to be the global leader in technology and innovation.  In what sectors can China be most competitive?    

One session will look at China’s activism on environmental issues.  President Xi strongly supports the Paris climate agreement.  China now invests more than any other country in renewable power.   At the same time, China also must find solutions to immediate health threats such as polluted groundwater and air pollution.   

Conference speakers will also explore China’s relations with her Asian neighbors, including disputes over the South China Sea and competition for resources, including water.  Where is Chinese investment welcomed, and where has it become a point of friction?  What security concerns do the neighbors have about Chinese military expansion? 

Finally, our speakers will explore what the ascent of China will mean to the United States. What issues matter most now, and what will be the areas of future competition or potential cooperation?  How shall we define US interests vis-à-vis China, and what can the United States itself do to ensure a peaceful, fruitful relationship? 

Throughout the conference, panels of speakers will have an opportunity to comment and share opinions on each other’s remarks.  Always a highlight of the Camden Conference, the Sunday panel of all speakers will bring together their broad expertise and very diverse viewpoints on China’s achievements at home and its aspirations for a large, respected role in world affairs.



Indira Lakshmanan


Indira Lakshmanan, the Newmark chair in journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute and a Boston Globe columnist, will return to the Camden Conference to moderate the 2019 conference.  

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Ms. Lakshmanan has covered coups, campaigns and revolutions in 80 countries and the US for the Globe, Bloomberg, the International New York Times, NPR, PBS and Politico Magazine. From Washington, she covered politics and foreign policy, traveling with Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and interviewing Clinton more than a dozen times for radio and TV. Indira wrote a “Letter from Washington” column for the international edition of The New York Times and Bloomberg. She has guest-hosted live national public radio programs including “On Point,” “1A,” “The Diane Rehm Show,” “Here and Now,” “Weekend Edition” and “The Takeaway,and is a frequent TV contributor. 

At Poynter, she is spurring thoughtful, creative discussion of how to restore trust in journalism across the political spectrum through transparency and accountability. She commissioned the first Poynter Media Trust Survey, and has convened leading national political editors, journalists and media critics in Washington to discuss the importance of free, fair, nonpartisan media to hold officials accountable and sustain democracy. 

Before reporting from Washington, she spent a dozen years as a foreign correspondent, covering the Bosnian War and the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and interviewing and profiling leaders including Benazir Bhutto, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. She embedded with sea pirates in the Philippines, Maoist rebels in Nepal, and Khmer Rouge holdouts in Cambodia. Her reporting exposed child labor in Bolivia, illegal logging in Brazil, corruption in China, and helped end the incarceration of innocent children in Nepal.

Ms. Lakshmanan graduated from Harvard University and did graduate studies at Oxford University. Her awards include a Nieman journalism fellowship.


Yuen Yuen Ang

Yuen Yuen Ang is an associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan. In 2018, the Carnegie Corporation named Dr. Ang an Andrew Carnegie Fellow​  in recognition of her ​ “high-caliber scholarship that applies fresh perspectives to some of the most pressing issues of our times.” ​

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Her expertise on China lies in the economy, bureaucratic politics, adaptation within the party-state, corruption, and the nation’s growing role in international development. 

Her book How China Escaped the Poverty Trap won the 2017 Peter Katzenstein Book Prize and was selected by Foreign Affairs as a “Best of Books 2017.”  She has written op-eds and blogs for Foreign AffairsThe Wall Street Journal, International Herald TribuneProject Syndicate, World Bank Governance Blog, and other outlets. She has spoken at global development forums sponsored by the World Bank, United Nations, and other international organizations in Europe and China.

In 2018, she will be writing a second book on corruption and capitalism.  This project will feature a new cross-national survey that “unbundles” corruption.

A native of Singapore, Dr. Ang is a graduate of Colorado College and received a PhD from Stanford University.  Prior to joining the University of Michigan, she was on the faculty of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.


Elizabeth C. Economy

Elizabeth C. Economy is the C. V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. An expert on Chinese domestic and foreign policy, she writes on topics ranging from China’s environmental challenges to its role in global governance.

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Her most recent book, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State (2018), analyzes the contradictory nature of reform under President Xi Jinping. She is also the author of By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest is Changing the World with Michael Levi, and The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future (editions in English, Chinese and Japanese). She also coedited, with Michel Oksenberg, China Joins the World: Progress and Prospects and, with Miranda Schreurs, The Internationalization of Environmental Protection. Her articles and op-eds appear in Foreign AffairsHarvard Business ReviewForeign Policy, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, among others.   In June 2018, Dr. Economy was named one of the “10 Names That Matter on China Policy” by Politico Magazine

Dr. Economy serves on the board of managers of Swarthmore College and the board of trustees of the Asia Foundation and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.  She has taught at Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Washington.  Dr. Economy received her BA from Swarthmore College, her MA from Stanford University, and her PhD from the University of Michigan. In 2008, she received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Vermont Law School.


Martin Jacques

Martin Jacques  is the author of the global best-seller When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, which was first published in 2009, expanded and updated in 2012, and has since sold 350,000 copies and been translated into fifteen languages.  He is currently working on a third book about China.

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Dr. Jacques is a senior fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University, and a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing.  His interest in East Asia began in 1993 with a holiday in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.  In 1998, he and his family moved to Hong Kong, where he remained until 2001.

He has been a visiting professor at Aichi University in Nagoya, Japan, Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, and Renmin University in Beijing, and a visiting senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore.

From 1977 to 1991, Dr. Jacques was editor of Marxism Today.  He transformed the little-known journal into an influential political publication in Britain; it was the most prominent analyst of Thatcherism – a term that it coined. 

An award-winning journalist, he has been an editor, columnist or essayist for more than 30 leading publications in the United States, Europe and Asia.  His TED Talk on “Understanding China” has had 2 million views, and he has made numerous television programs for the BBC. 

He took a first class honours degree, followed by a master’s degree, at Manchester University, then earned a PhD at Cambridge University.  He subsequently held a lectureship in the Department of Economic and Social History at Bristol University.

He is chairman of the Harinder Veriah Trust, which was established in memory of his wife and gives financial support to under-privileged children at his wife’s old school in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.


Kaiser Kuo

Kaiser Kuo is the founder and host of the Sinica Podcast, a weekly discussion of current affairs in China, and editor-at-large of SupChina.com.  He recently repatriated to the U.S. (North Carolina) after 20 years in Beijing, where he worked as director of international communications for Baidu, a Chinese technology company specializing in Internet-related services and products and artificial intelligence.  

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The second largest search engine in the world, Baidu holds a 76% share of China’s search engine market.  Baidu also has one of the world’s leading autonomous driving programs. 

In 2010, Mr. Kuo started Sinica, a current affairs podcast based in Beijing that invites prominent China journalists and China-watchers to participate in uncensored discussions about Chinese political and economic affairs.

Before taking a job with Baidu, Mr. Kuo was a technology correspondent for Red Herring magazine.  He also worked as director of digital strategy, China, for Ogilvy & Mather in Beijing.   From 2001 to 2011, he wrote a column for the foreigner-focused English-language magazine The Beijinger

Mr. Kuo is also a guitarist and co-founder of the band Chunqiu (Spring & Autumn).  He founded China’s first heavy metal band, Tang Dynasty. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and holds an MA from the University of Arizona.


Dr. Wu Xinbo

Dr. Wu Xinbo is professor and dean of the Institute of International Studies and director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.  He teaches and researches China’s foreign and security policy, Sino-U.S. relations, and U.S. Asia-Pacific policy.

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Dr. Wu is the author of The New Landscape in Sino-U.S. Relations in the early 21st Century, Managing Crisis and Sustaining Peace between China and the United States, Turbulent Water: US Asia-Pacific Security Strategy in the post-Cold War Era, and Dollar Diplomacy and Major Powers in China, 1909-1913.

He has published numerous articles and book chapters in China, the United States, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Singapore and India.  Dr. Wu is on the editorial board of The Washington Quarterly published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies

He has been a visiting scholar or fellow at George Washington University;  the Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University; the Henry Stimson Center in Washington DC; the Brookings Institution: and the United States Institute of Peace.  

Dr. Wu graduated with a B.A. in history from Fudan University in 1986.  In 1992, he received his Ph. D. in international relations from Fudan, and in the same year he joined the university’s Center for American Studies. 

Ma Jun

Ma Jun

Ma Jun is Director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) in Beijing, one of China’s leading environmental NGOs.  IPE has developed pollution databases to monitor corporate environmental performance and to facilitate public participation in environmental governance.

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Committed to promoting transparency around pollution issues in China, IPE developed the China Water Pollution Map, the first public database of water pollution information in China. “Water pollution is the most serious environmental issue facing China,” says Mr. Ma. “It has a huge impact on people’s health and economic development.” 

In the 1990s, Mr. Ma became known as an investigative journalist, working at the South China Morning Post (SCMP) from 1993 to 2000. There, he began to specialize in articles on environmental subjects. He eventually became the newspaper’s chief representative in Beijing.

Mr. Ma’s 1999 book China’s Water Crisis was China’s first major book on that nation’s environmental crisis and has been compared to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.  In 2006, Time magazine named him as one of the 100 most influential persons in the world.

In 2012, Mr. Ma received the Goldman Environmental Prize and was on the list of Foreign Policy Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2015, he became the first Chinese to win the Skoll Award.  for social entrepreneurship.  He is currently a Wilson Center Global Fellow (2013-2019).  In 2016, Mr. Ma appeared in “Before the Flood,” the 2016 National Geographic film on climate change.

IPE has created the Green Choice Alliance, a coalition of Chinese NGO organizations that promote a global green supply chain by pushing large corporations to concentrate on procurement and the environmental performance of their suppliers. It has also developed the Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI), China’s first index to evaluate environmental information transparency in 113 cities


The conference detailed agenda will be posted here as soon as it is finalized.




Abrami, Regina M., William C. Kirby and F. Warren McFarlan. Can China Lead?: Reaching the Limits of Power and Growth. Harvard Business Review Press. 2014.

Despite China’s remarkable economic growth for more than 30 years, it now faces enormous challenges that could shift the country’s political and economic trajectory, challenges that are deeply rooted in Chinese history and the country’s political system.

How China Escaped the Poverty trap

Ang, Yuen Yuen. How China escaped the Poverty Trap. Cornell University Press. 2016.

Ang contends that China evolved into the world’s second-largest economy through the adaptive strategy of “directed improvisation”—a paradoxical mixture of top-down direction (by Beijing) and bottom-up improvisation (by local governments) within China’s single-party state. 


Obama China Rise

Bader, Jeffrey A.. Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy. Brookings Institution press. 2013.

An Insider’s account of the formulation and Implementation of the administration’s East Asian policy, dominated by the booming economy, expanding military power and increasing influence over the region of a rising China.

The Third Revolution

Economy, Elizabeth C.. The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State. Oxford University Press. 2018.

A wide-ranging exploration of Xi Jinping’s top political, economic and foreign policy priorities and the tensions, shortcomings and successes of his reform efforts and their implications for the rest of the world.


Huang, Yukon. Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong. Oxford university Press. 2017.

China’s rise is altering global power relations, reshaping economic debates, and commanding tremendous public attention. This book provides a holistic and contrarian view of China’s major economic, political and foreign policy issues.


Jacques, Martin. When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global order: second edition. Penguin Books. 2012.

Expanding a book that was published in 2009, Martin Jacques renews his assault on conventional thinking about China’s ascendancy, showing how its impact will be as much political and cultural as economic, changing the world as we know it.

China Water Crisis

Jun, Ma. China’s Water Crisis. EastBridge, a nonprofit corporation. 2004.

A comprehensive, authoritative, and up-to-date-source of information on the enormous water resource crisis confronting the Peoples Republic of China.


McGregor, Richard. Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century. Viking. 2017.

A history of the combative, military, diplomatic and economic relations among China, Japan and the United States since the 1970s-and the potential crisis that awaits them.


Nye, Joseph S.. Is the American Century Over? (Global Futures). Polity. 2015.

Despite the tempering of America’s superpower status because of its own domestic problems and China’s economic boom, Joseph Nye argues that its military, economic and soft power capabilities will continue to outstrip those of its closest rivals for decades to come.


Osnos, Evan. Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2015.

The clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control: a battle between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail.


Schell, Orville and John DeLury. Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century. Random House. 2013.

A panoramic narrative of China’s rise that is at once analytical and personal: the examination of the lives of eleven influential officials, writers, activists and leaders whose contributions helped create modern China.


Weiss, Jessica Chen. Powerful patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations. Oxford University Press. 2014.

Identification of the diplomatic and domestic factors that drive protest management in authoritarian states and the consequences of actions between 1985 and 2012.


Chang, Eileen. Naked Earth. NYRB Classics. 2015.

A harrowing tale of perverted ideals, damaged souls, deepest loneliness and terror by one of the greatest and most loved modern Chinese writers.


Chang, Jung. Mao: The Unknown Story. Alfred A. Knopf. 2005.

Called the most authoritative life of the Chinese leader ever written.


Clissold, Tim. Mr. China: A Memoir. HarperBusiness. 2006.

Reviewer calls Mr. China one man’s coming of age story where he learns to respect d admire the nation he sought to conquer-China.

Guo, Xiaolu. Nine Continents: A Memoir In and Out of China. Grove Press. 2017.

The story of a curious mind coming of age in an inhospitable country, and her determination to seek a life beyond the limits of its boarder.

Hua, Yu. The Seventh Day: A Novel. Anchor. 2016.

In the journey through China after his death, the main character movingly traces the contours of this vast nation-its absurdities, its sorrows, and its soul.

Jian, Ma. The Dark Road: A Novel. Penguin Books. 2014.

A novel about the human cost of China’s one-child policy.

Jin, Ha. Waiting: A Novel. Vintage International. 2000.

An amazing glimpse into Chinese culture-not only the political landscape, but family relations.

Li, Yiyun. The Vagrants. Random House Trade. 2010.

A stunning novel that is at once a picture of life in China in the period after Mao, a universal portrait of human frailty and courage, and a mesmerizing work of art.

Meyer, Michael. The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China from the Ground Up. Bloomsbury USA. 2017.

A brilliant portrait of China today and a memoir of coming of age in a country in transition.

Yan, Mo. Red Sorghum. Penguin Books. 1994.

A book of love and resistance in China in which fable and history collide to produce fiction that is entirely new-and unforgettable.

Xingjian, Gao. Soul Mountain. HarperCollins Publisher. 2000.

This book probes the human soul with an uncommon directness and candor and delights in the freedom of the imagination to expand the notion of the individual self.