China, On The Eve Of A New Presidency
China has been plagued by political scandal and controversy, just as the Communist government prepares for its once-a-decade transfer of power. It's an important moment for the government, which faces questions about how its economy will be governed and how it will handle deal with foreign powers.
NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. In China, an emerging superpower is caught up in political intrigue at the highest levels, a wave of nationalist fervor, all while it flexes its muscles with its neighbors.
There's the case of Bo Xilai, a disgraced former high-ranking official whose wife has just been convicted of murder. There's Xi Jinping, the man in line to take over as party chairman who went missing for a couple of weeks earlier this month with not a work of explanation. And there's the fever pitch in the ongoing territorial disputes with China's neighbors over islands in the South and East China Seas.
All this against the backdrop of a once-in-a-decade changeover in the political leadership, which is being conducted entirely in secret, so no one knows much, if anything, about the policies or the character of the Politburo's next gen.
Scary enough in a backwater like North Korea, but China is an economic and military powerhouse. If you have questions about the disconnect between China's status as a superpower and its opaque politics, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later in the program, the story of the struggle over a failing elementary school in California and the parent trigger law. But first the internal and external politics of China. Rob Gifford is China editor of The Economist magazine, of course our old friend, a former NPR foreign correspondent. He joins us now from the BBC studios in Oxford. Rob, always nice to have you on the program.
ROB GIFFORD: Always good to be back, Neal. And with us here in Studio 3A is Christopher Johnson, senior adviser and Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, former CIA senior China analyst. Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.
CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON: Thank you very much.
CONAN: And Rob, let's begin with you. Of all those stories we were mentioning, all those different elements, which do you think is the most important?
GIFFORD: Oh what a question. I mean, they're all important. I think you put your finger in the introduction, Neal. China touches on everything. Everything that goes in China touches on something somewhere else in the world. I think, really though, probably the transition is the most important thing to watch at the moment, and one thing you didn't mention so much, the economy.
I think the situation with Japan is dangerous but containable and manageable. They know that they can't let it get too out of hand. But the big issue at the moment is we don't even know when the transition is going to happen. That opaqueness you talked about, the economy is slowing. The political system is opaque, and because so many of us in the West and so many countries are in some way bound to the Chinese economy. The president-elect - sorry, not elect, the president designate - goes missing for two weeks, I think it's worrying, and it speaks of a problem within the system, I mean, that we need to really examine. And, of course, many people believe that China needs to do something about.
CONAN: Chris Johnson, we worried for two weeks about the physical and the political health of the president designate, and he's since re-emerged, reappeared. Still not a word of - was is a back problem, did he slip in the pool when he was - what happened?
JOHNSON: Well, that is the $64,000 question, of course, and perhaps $64 million question. But nobody knows. I mean, the reality is there is no firm information. There is no greater secret in China than leadership health and status.
And what really has been striking in my own mind, of course as long as it's not a life-threatening condition, at the end of the day it doesn't matter now that he's appeared back in public. I mean, folks want to know, but the message is really why did the regime handle it in such a sloppy manner.
And what we see time and again and what they don't seem to understand about the modern media context and the power of social media, the growing power of social media in China, is that they can no longer go back to their traditional Communist Party playbook and suppress all information, because if they don't come out with some sort of an explanation, then the rumor mill and the social media blog space and so on goes crazy.
And it tends to be very negative about the party, you know, that the leadership is divided and that there are terrible infighting going on within the party or that Xi has been assassinated, or there's been a coup. I mean, all these things were circulating around.
And what's striking to me is that despite all that, the leadership doesn't seem to realize that there's a steady erosion in their credibility, and they can't - they need to catch up and start managing this in a different way.
But it is such a sensitive issue, and, you know, as was just pointed out, the transition has been so complicated already, I think that whatever was going on, they didn't want to signal that there was any possibility of anything other than a smooth and stable succession coming up.
CONAN: Smooth and stable succession, they have not scheduled the meeting yet where the transition will take place, and Rob Gifford, can they even schedule it, can they hold it before they settle the case of Mr. Bo Xilai?
GIFFORD: Well, that's a good question. I mean, we're all looking for that. I mean, I think they're not going to - a lot of people feel, and myself included, that he is going to be put on trial. But they're not going to put him on trial, I don't think, beforehand. They may well announce that he is going to be put on trial before this congress takes place.
We're expecting it still in October, conceivably into sometime into November. But really the striking thing when you're in China, and I go there a lot, and of course you have reporters there, is just the disconnect that Chris was just talking about. The disconnect between high politics and life on the street because I think we do tend to still talk, some people still talk about communist China.
It is ruled by a communist party, but life on the streets and life on the blogs and life on the microblogs is very, very different. And this disconnect really needs to be addressed, because actually, interestingly, the disappearance of Xi Jinping was probably more of a concern to foreigners and foreign journalists.
Chinese people were just getting on with their life. However, if something goes wrong with the transition, or if, for instance, there's a division in the Politburo or some kind of split within the standing committee about big issues within - about China's reform path, you know, that has a huge impact on the people on the street. But we just don't know anything about it.
But that split between the reality of ordinary Chinese people's lives, who actually don't care a huge amount about Xi Jinping and the top leaders, is worth pointing out as we obsess about it in the West.
CONAN: Well, not just journalists, though, of course, journalists, but Chris Johnson it's - the political leadership around the world, China's neighbors, anybody who wanted to invest in China. Certainly Japanese businesses are having a second thought or two.
JOHNSON: Yes, they certainly are, and I mean, I think that was really one of the key problems with this issue with Xi Jinping is that, you know, compared to the last time we had a generational transition, which was a decade ago, markets are moved a lot more by what goes on in China these days. And let's face it, since the global financial crisis, China has been a primary, if not the primary, engine keeping the global economy, at least, chugging along at some level.
And as Robert pointed out earlier, it's starting to slow down considerably, and this is already alarming enough. And then to have uncertainty somehow at the top at this critical juncture is really, really problematic. I think as well, just in sort of the broader scope, it is worrisome that we're, you know, now rapidly approaching the end of September, and we still don't have any sense of when they're going to get about the congress.
The problem with that kind of analysis, of course, is though it could change tomorrow. You wake up in the morning, the Politburo's met, they announce the dates, and we're ready to go.
CONAN: They settled the NFL referees.
JOHNSON: There you go, that's right, exactly.
GIFFORD: One other thing to say, Neal, is I think that there is possibly a sort of minor paralysis in the Politburo about, who knows, about Bo Xilai, about what to do with him, about all sorts of things ahead of this congress. But I think it speaks of a much bigger problem, that the leaders of China are kind of stuck. They're paralyzed because what has happened is over the last 30 years, they've been able to make a lot of reforms within the current system.
And in many ways, that was the easy part. Now they're looking to the future, and they know that the reforms that they now have to make are, even if they're economic things, even if they're financial things or social things, a lot of the big decisions that now have to be made are actually political, as well, and they can't make them without somehow affecting the structure of the way that China is governed.
And I think there is a sense of looking forward to the next 30 years and a paralysis, and I think they have reason to be concerned, and you only have to look at the Soviet Union, of course, to see what happens when, for instance, they do - a totalitarian state goes down the road of reform.
I think they're worried, and I think in their minds, and certainly in my mind, is the idea of is there a tipping point coming where it's going to actually be more dangerous for them not to start some reforms, the structural reforms. It's going to be more dangerous not to do that than it is to do that.
CONAN: But the fear that a little perestroika heads to the slippery slope.
GIFFORD: Of course.
CONAN: And Chris Johnson, the other issue, there were rumors, again who knows, that this - there was a split. This was a question of political rather than physical health in the disappearance and that there was a split within the Politburo, and they're still undecided as to who's going to come out on top.
JOHNSON: Yeah, I find that very unlikely for a lot of the reasons we've just been discussing. I mean, one of the issues that they've had, I mean this goes back to Deng Xiaoping and the reform period and their efforts to emerge from the power struggles of the Mao era and the cultural revolution, and, you know, Deng set them on a very decided course toward regularizing the succession process.
And to it's to a fine art now, really, where they spend five years effectively coronating the new person. Xi Jinping was highlighted as the next leader going back to the last party congress in 2007. So barring some serious divisions within the Politburo, and if that's the case we're all in big trouble, you know, Xi Jinping will emerge as the top leader.
So I don't think whatever was going on with him was political. That said, I agree absolutely with Robert that there is something going on within the Politburo. I personally think Bo Xilai's case is a major driver. My own sense is that they are a little more divided, frankly, over whether to pursue a public trial or whether it's too sensitive, and they need to handle in the sort of party's internal discipline system.
CONAN: Star chamber, yeah.
JOHNSON: That's right, and that's one possible reason. I think the other, though, is, you know, what's interesting about this transition is it's a bit trite to say, but I think we're starting to see some real manifestations of it, this is the first time in their history that they are pursuing a leadership succession without the careful hands of revolutionary credentialed elders like Mao Zedong, like Deng Xiaoping.
And so what you have is a bunch of rival interest groups, none of whom have clear paramountsy(ph) over the other ones and all of whom want a slice of the pie. And, you know, the other factor of course here is that there are rumors that they are going to downsize of the size of the Politburo standing committee, China's top decision-making body, from its current nine-member structure to seven.
And just like here in Washington, when you try to reduce the size of a bureaucracy, there's always going to be infighting. There's going to be vested interests who are going to lose out. And my own sense is that's making the competition all the more intense.
CONAN: And speaking of rumors, of course the trial for murder of Bo Xilai's wife, who was convicted, of course, they're always convicted in China, and rumors that, well, she didn't speak on her own defense. Was that her? Was that a double that they had sitting in for her?
Mystery and opacity in China as we try to reconcile the differences and the disconnect between an opaque political structure and an emerging superpower. If you have questions, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. Rob Gifford and Chris Johnson will pivot to the South China Sea and the East China Sea when we come back. Stay with us. This is NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan. As China prepares for a transfer of power next month, the country's military put its first aircraft carrier into service on Tuesday. Beijing, remember, continues its diplomatic standoff with neighboring countries over ownership of several disputed island groups in the South and East China Seas.
In the ceremony to launch the new carrier, the defense ministry said the new ship would help protect national sovereignty, security and development interests. Outside analysts, though, are less sure. The carrier is a refurbished Soviet ship that China bought from Ukraine. For the next few years, at least, it'll be used only as a training vessel. China has no planes that can land on the carrier as yet.
Still, the government clearly hopes that the country's first aircraft carrier will boost national pride and patriotism at a key moment for the Communist Party. If you have questions about the disconnect between China's status as a superpower and its opaque politics, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email email@example.com. You can also go to our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Our guests are Rob Gifford, China editor for The Economist; and Christopher Johnson, senior adviser and Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, former CIA senior China analyst. Let's get a caller in on the conversation, and Jennifer's with us from San Francisco.
JENNIFER: Hi, Neal, thanks for taking my call.
JENNIFER: Well, I want to start off with saying that I have kind of a skewed perception of China. I'm ethnically Vietnamese, and you know, traditionally the antagonism between the two countries has been great. So I will say that I am a little bit biased. But my question is, you know, the perception of China is that there's corruption everywhere, particularly in the courts, with Bo Xilai's wife, you know, suspected of having a body double attend court.
What kind of reformation will the new incoming leadership do to reform the court system?
CONAN: Chris Johnson, any ideas?
JOHNSON: Yeah, I think that's a great question. It's a fundamental point, and I think it lashes up very nicely with what Rob was saying a few moments ago, and that is that for these kind of reforms to go forward, going forward, it's going to be a situation where the party is going to have to retreat a little bit, whether it's from the economy, from the judicial sector, from, you know, a number of these key areas.
And those are the hardest things for them to do. The reality of the situation is they started taking some steps in this direction in the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping was really riding high in the reform process, and they had a process called political structural reform.
There was an effort to separate party and government functions, basically, and during that time we did see the courts develop a little bit of independence. That has all eroded tremendously in the last few years, to the point where the party basically is more involved in the court system than it ever has been.
And with that being the case, you're going to always have that political flavor to all of these decisions that are being made. The leadership definitely recognizes this as a problem. There is a lot of talk out there that the new leadership has a sort of reformist leaning. Xi Jinping has supposedly been having salon-style meetings with some of the key reformist thinkers within the party.
But we'll have to see how much of that's going to be real, and even if he has that intent, will his colleagues on the emerging Politburo standing committee allow him to move in that direction?
CONAN: You just came back from China.
JOHNSON: That's right.
CONAN: Who do you talk to when you're there?
JOHNSON: A wide variety of people: academics; old friends of mine, quite frankly; people in our embassy there; a wide - business people; a wide range of folks, all of whom I feel have a good sense of what's going on.
But to be entirely frank, one of the chief things that I always find in going there, the best thing you can do is just get out, walk the streets and talk to the people and hear what they're thinking and seeing. It really does give you a good flavor for the ground, and it plays exactly to what Rob was discussing earlier about the huge disconnect between all the interests in the West and in other capitals about what's going on in the leadership and how little the people actually care.
CONAN: Rob, does that sound like the same kind of people you talk to?
GIFFORD: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that, you know, it is slightly sort of disconnected. You talk to some of the policy people, but then you talk to the people, and sometimes they're living in two different worlds. I mean, just to talk specifically about that legal - the question of legal reform, I think this very neatly encapsulates many of the things we've been talking about.
They desperately need to reform the legal system, but they can't because if they start to give any independence of any sort to the judiciary, then they won't be in control of it, and the whole essence of the system is that the party has to control everything.
And I think we should say frankly that there are many people, and I'm sure Chris speaks to them as well, they're not necessarily at the very top, but there are people within the Chinese government who have quite, you know, liberal thinking about things and will admit freely that China needs to reform.
The question is, who's going to be brave enough to take that first step when legal reform, even basic political reform, could lead to the whole thing unraveling. So they are just - as I said, they are a bit stuck on this. Meanwhile, the economy is slowing, they're relying on the - economic growth has always been their source of legitimacy.
They no longer have ideological legitimacy. Of course they don't have popular legitimacy. And that, of course, brings us to what you were talking about in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, looking for another kind of legitimacy, and that is in nationalism and nationalistic legitimacy as the champion of the rising China, which is the historical China, which is the great China.
And this is very worrying internationally, diplomatically, within East Asia.
CONAN: Our caller mentioned she was ethnically Vietnamese. You might see it as an irony that one of China's great rivals at the moment in one of those disputes in the South China Sea is communist Vietnam. Of course rivalries between Vietnam and China have long surpassed any Leninist solidarity they may have felt for one another.
But at the same time, Chris Johnson, we had the spectacle this week of the Chinese media, the mainland Chinese media cheering on Taiwanese fisherman in the East China Sea as they sailed to protest against Japan.
JOHNSON: Yeah, strange bedfellows, but it's one of these situations, and what's interesting about that is that, you know, the Chinese Communist Party, this is one of the many ways in which it can be so pragmatic and so flexible in that it is willing to often adopt, you know, the so-called nine-dash line, this sort of, you know, claim that they have in the South China Sea.
That goes back to the Chiang Kai-shek regime, you know, and so when it suits their interests, they are more than willing to work with their compatriots in Taiwan. But you know, more fundamentally I think the issue is - what's striking about this is for the last 20 years, you know, all parties seemed to find a way to be able to put this largely aside and to focus on - they have been very unsuccessful with joint development but to just kind of focus on economic building and so on.
It's only really within the last couple years that this has really flared up. I think it's also very important to underscore, of course, that the nationalism issue is not just a problem in China, it's a problem in these other nations as well: Vietnam, the Philippines. And then you have a broader problem, frankly, of weak leaderships in a lot of these places.
Japan, you know, constantly changing prime ministers, you know, this sort of issue. South Korea has an upcoming presidential election. So that's fueling a lot of this as well.
CONAN: And a nationalist, looks like, going to be the next prime minister in Japan, if polls can be believed.
JOHNSON: Exactly, that's right.
CONAN: Let's go next to Cliff, and Cliff's on the line with us from Waterford, Connecticut.
CLIFF: Yes, love your show, Scott. I'm just going to follow up on what you just asked your guest about Taiwan following, you know, following China going towards Japan. I thought, you know, what's - what do you think the United States is going to do being that as far as I heard, they were going to defend Taiwan come what may? I mean, does the relationship between Taiwan and the United States change because of all this, or you know, what's the story with Taiwan?
CONAN: Rob, we saw Japanese and Taiwanese craft exchanging water cannon fire, but apparently just a sort of symbolic shot across the bow. And then everybody retreated, and everybody thinks it's going to be contained. Taiwan is, Chris Johnson was mentioning, was trying to enforce its claim to these Senkaku Islands, as the Japanese call them.
GIFFORD: That's right, and I think the American role is very important. And I mean what you just described in East Asia is rather scary, isn't it? It sounds a bit like late 19th-century Europe. And so - and it is, in many ways: the emergent nationalism, the industrialization, the emergence of new nationalisms.
And I think the presence of the American troops, 70,000 or so troops, in Northeast Asia, is key. American involvement is key in keeping the peace. America has said it will - that the Senkakus, the Diaoyus, are covered by the defense treaty between the United States and Japan. And America still obviously has commitments to Taiwan.
But these are shifting times. You know, America's relationship with Taiwan is changing as China becomes more important. Of course as you said, this new leader of the LDP in Japan who might be the new prime minister is a real hawkish former prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
So things are changing, and America is going to need a very flexible but very robust and very engaged policy in Northeast Asia over the coming years.
CONAN: Email from Gareth in Walnut Creek, California: Is there any justification in comparing the reporting on China today with the reporting on Germany in the 1930s? Germany was an economic powerhouse then, as China is today, but now nobody talks about the economic power of Germany during those terrible years.
In the future, will anyone talk about anything but the terrible repression during this period in China's history, particularly the repression of Tibetans and other minorities? Human rights have not been - come up, Chris Johnson?
JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, first, let me address the first point which I think is that there are parallels, and this is, you know, Secretary Clinton herself mentioned this issue when she was visiting Beijing earlier this month, where she underscored the idea that what we are looking for is an answer to the age-old question of how a status quo or enduring power manages the rise of a new entrant to the game, and can that happen in the absence of conflict. And the historical record is pretty poor there.
CONAN: Not good, no.
JOHNSON: That's right. And so this is really the fundamental issue. On the human rights issue, obviously, yeah, continuing to be a major problem in China. We see, I think, particularly now that the economy is struggling, the leadership becoming very concerned about social stability. They were rattled pretty badly by the Arab Spring where frankly they way overreacted in my personal opinion and showed some fragility, really, by doing so. But in this case now, I think we're seeing them really get concerned about some of these demonstrations.
Their approach, for example, to these anti-Japanese demonstrations, which were occurring right outside my hotel window when I was in Beijing, was very instructive in that regard, and that, you know, they know how easily that anti-Japanese sentiment can tip into anti-government sentiment.
CONAN: They happened to come on the anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China during the Second World War.
JOHNSON: That is - that's correct, right. And so when they start to feel that it's turning sideways on them, they move in very quickly to turn it off. But my own view is that every time they allow this sort of pressure to build in the system it again, you know, stresses the system's ability to manage it.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller in. Let's go to Pierre, and Pierre is on the line with us from Portland.
PIERRE: My question is: If the Chinese leadership did open up, what would the U.S. do with this information? I think that China has reasons to be suspicious of our intentions.
CONAN: Well, traditionally, they, Chris Johnson, see any information about the upper leadership as espionage.
JOHNSON: Yes, that's correct. Like I was mentioning earlier, I mean, any - there's no greater secrets in their system than the black box of Chinese politics. And so, you know, just like their Soviet counterpart, unless and until there are some sort of major fundamental change and the archives are opened, we're not going to know what's going on inside that system.
CONAN: Pierre, thanks very much for the call. We're talking with Christopher Johnson, senior adviser and Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously the CIA's senior China analyst. He's with us here in Studio 3A. With us from the BBC studios in Oxford, Rob Gifford, China editor for The Economist magazine, former NPR foreign correspondent. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And, Rob, I wanted to ask you. Last week - I guess, a couple of weeks ago, we had the chance to talk are Robert Kaplan, whose new book is out called "The Revenge of Geography," and he pointed out that if you look at the East Asia from a - the view point of a Chinese admiral, he sees a whole bastion of American allies that boxed China in from Korea to the north, to Australia to the south, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines. He sees China - we - the United States keeps saying we don't want to contain China. He sees - he looks at that and says I am contained.
GIFFORD: Yeah. I think that's absolutely right, and I think while it's extremely important, as I think we've both been saying, to have robust policies towards China and to be aware of the dangers of a growing China. I think it's also very important to try to see things through China's eyes as well, just so that we can better understand why they behave the way they do. I mean, don't - never mind Australia, Japan, South Korea. How about Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, all around their northwest side?
A growing relationship with India and now Myanmar. Oh, my goodness. Burma, old Burma has completely turned and its - and Thein Sein, the president, is smooching with Hillary Clinton in New York. So there's concerns within China, and this is laid on top of 150, 180 years of paranoia. And, you know, many of the historians listening will know about the century of humiliation, the arrival of the British gunships in the 1830s. And it's so deep.
It's in Chinese's DNA. It's in their - always in their psyche to be paranoid about Western intentions. And so I think it is important that we understand that, so that in the West, we don't get, you know, ahead of ourselves in our policies. And again, we come back to the early part of the 20th century. I mean, the - no one wanted a war, right? But somehow, it happened. So it's a matter of engaging very cleverly and robustly, but not stupidly, in terms of pressing Chinese buttons that's going to make them react more.
JOHNSON: And this is, I think, also the fundamental dilemma that the U.S. faces right now, is how do we allow for and how do we accommodate China's desire for some strategic depth along its periphery when the space within which it would want to have that strategic depth is loaded by our allies and where our allies wish to be and partners and friends in the regoin wish to be operating. This is the true challenge for the U.S. - how do you make some accommodation in that respect to China's, you know, sort of interest and desire to have that strategic depth while not appearing to be abandoning your allies and friends?
CONAN: And you mentioned earlier that we had not put enough emphasis on the economy, and that's a very important issue. Another major factor, though, is the environment, mentioned by one of our emailers. You were just in Beijing. I'm sure the air was terrific.
JOHNSON: Actually, it was pretty good...
JOHNSON: ...unusually so for the first few days I was there, but then it came back to its, sort of, normal state. And, you know, this is a tremendous problem. You know, speaking to people I've - I often hear, though, that Tokyo was like this in the 1960s. You know, you hear that a lot, but what's striking to me about the environmental piece is really this broader issue of how it plays into the stability issue and, you know, the support, publicly, for the party, the Communist Party.
They have been losing, frankly, the emerging middle class on this issue. Now, that - and that sector in society has been a tremendous bulwark for the regime all through the reform period. They've been very clever, frankly, about co-opting them and keeping them under the tent and so on. But, you know, now that these people are not consumed with scratching a living out of the dirt, they're adopting the same kind of concerns that most rising middle classes do. They're fed up with the environmental pollution. They're fed up with the food safety issues. They're fed up with the official corruption problem that we've been discussing earlier. And the Communist Party needs to start taking some action on these, if it wants to keep that, sort of, very important interest group, under the tent, if you will.
GIFFORD: And just to add one word to that, Neal, I think I totally agree with that. And if you look at the neighbors and how they changed. For instance, Taiwan and South Korea. You know, they got to this stage of having the middle class and that is, you know, China's got several hundred million middle class now, and that's when they started to change politically. China's problem, in that sense, is size and population, you know, so they brought three or 400 million people into the middle - 400 million people into the new middle class. Well, they've only got sort of 800 million more to go. So that's the problem. Are they going to be able to hold those three or 400 million new middle class people in a sort of holding pattern where they support the status quo or are they going to start demanding for more - as they already are, as Chris just said, on the microblogs in their protest, in their sort of residents' associations of their new apartment blocks?
CONAN: Rob Gifford of The Economist, as always, thanks very much.
GIFFORD: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: And Christopher Johnson of the CSIS - excuse me, the Center for Strategic - yes, CSIS. I got it right. OK. Thanks very much, Chris.
JOHNSON: No problem. Thank you.
CONAN: Up next, Sean Cavanagh of Education Week on parent triggers. Stay with us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.