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Global Promotion Strategy: the Chinese Example

19.06.2024
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According to N. Yau

At the height of China's economic growth in the late 2010s, Beijing began to advocate for an alternative governance model that prioritizes economic development and rejects the central role of individual rights protections and “Western” democratic processes. At the heart of this new drive to legitimize authoritarian rule was the example of China's remarkably rapid economic development under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the implicit claim that such successful growth would legitimize not only China's own system of government, but also its other non-state systems. The global implications of this development have become clearer as Beijing embarks on an ever-expanding mission to promote its political system in the Global South.

Back in 1985, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping explained in simple terms that the Chinese political system would resist change despite economic integration with the world. He then told the Tanzanian President: “Our reform is an experiment not only in China but also internationally, and we believe it will be successful. If we are successful, this could provide some experience for developing countries."In 2017, new Chinese leader Xi Jinping echoed this sentiment, using similar language.

The People's Republic of China has long sought recognition of Chinese political ideas abroad and encouraged their adoption in China's interests. However, China usually does not need to persuade countries to accept its messages of successful development. Many leaders in developing countries, who have witnessed China's "economic miracle" in which the country has grown at an astonishing pace since opening its economy to the world in the late 1970s, take China's claims about the benefits of its system seriously and are willing to take the calculated risk of experimenting with it. what Beijing offers. Although China's economic growth has slowed significantly in recent years and its political system has become more repressive, the number of countries welcoming lessons from Chinese governance continues to grow, increasing Beijing's global influence. This has serious implications for the future of democracy, the protection of individual rights and the nature of global order.

One of the most direct ways Beijing promotes influence is through programs to train foreign government officials in Chinese governance practices. A new set of data from Chinese government files on such training shows how Beijing is using these sessions to directly promote ideas and practices that combine economics and politics to underpin its model of authoritarian capitalism. In addition to promoting sympathy for Chinese ideology among officials in countries in the Global South, these programs also provide practical assistance to host countries in accelerating the adaptation of Chinese practices.

In 1981, Beijing began conducting training programs, first called "foreign aid", in coordination with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as part of an effort to provide aid and basic skills to developing countries.In 1998, the Chinese government withdrew from this cooperative agreement and began offering its own centrally planned training programs directly to government officials in the Global South. Between 1981 and 2009, Beijing reportedly hosted 120,000 trainees from the Global South across 4,000 programs in twenty fixed regions. After initial success, the programs expanded beyond their original goal and the number of trainees increased over the next decade: to 49,148 trainees in 1,951 programs between 2010 and 2012, and over 200,000 trainees in approximately 7,000 programs between 2013 and 2018 .

China's promotion of its governance model and erosion of support for democratic practices and principles is likely to intensify across the Global South, with Beijing further expanding the scope of the training described. These efforts are integral to the PRC's desire to transform the global order, currently based on the centrality of democracy and individual rights.

 

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