The Contemporary Re-emergence of China and its Effects on International Development and Global Affairs

China’s recent re-emergence as a major global actor has profound implications for theories and practices in international development, and global affairs. This project, supported by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, and John Fell OUP Research Fund, examines this premise through five prisms.

First, I am interested in unpacking the philosophical underpinnings of the ‘Beijing Consensus’ [audio paper:  video and podcast] [public talk: video, podcast and powerpoint]. Namely, in a journal article [translation: Chinese] I argue that the ‘Beijing Consensus’ represents an analytical dilemma: it lacks a codified set of principles and policy tools and as such, it can be a difficult model for policymakers to utilize in their deliberation. Relatedly, in the search for a concrete set of principles and policy tools, the literature has a tendency to simultaneously conflate the ‘Beijing Consensus’ with the Chinese model of development – a red herring to say the least – with the relevant critiques following suit. Instead, the ‘Beijing Consensus’ should be viewed as a philosophical movement towards an ultra-pragmatic view of development policy. This, in turn, can provide room for greater policy experimentation. Several academic and policy talks were delivered in leading global institutions (e.g. SOAS' Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy) elaborating this premise.

Second, I analytically dissect the paradoxical government-organized, non-governmental organizations (GONGOs) in a study published in the Journal of Civil Society [audio paper:  video and podcast] [translations: Chinese, German and Russian]. GONGOS are widely prevalent in mainland China and they are rapidly expanding their activities overseas. The article looks at how GONGOs’ activities fit within mainstream civil society theories and traditions; delineates their sources of power, main functions, strategies for execution and dilemmas relative to traditional NGOs; and, discusses the implications for the growth of GONGOs on state and society relations globally. 

Third, the internationalization strategies of Chinese NGOs are examined, with an emphasis on discerning whether China’s involvement in the delivery of development assistance challenges our understanding of development theory and practice – to the extent of providing an alternative model [public talk: podcast and powerpoint]. Results in an article published in Development Policy Review [audio paper:  video and podcast] [translation: Chinese] [public talk: powerpoint] suggests that irrespective of political regime type, Chinese NGOs are yet to make a substantial impact on their host jurisdiction. That is, despite the growing strength of the Chinese state and high levels of international development assistance given, domestic politics and the regulatory framework in a host nation still matter a great deal. The implications of the study is that the Chinese model of international development will continue to be one where temporary one-off projects are favoured, and insofar as social organizations will play a role, they will be in the domain of GONGOs rather than grassroot NGOs. To raise awareness about the study, an article outlining the findings and its potential implications was published in the The Diplomat Magazine. Note, this study is influenced by early work looking at social development practices in the Tibet Autonomous Region [audio paper:  video and podcast], and a report looking at public affairs modeling.

Fourth, in a study that appears in the The China Review [audio paper:  video and podcast] [translations: Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Russian] [public talk: powerpoint], the impact of Chinese social organizations’ behaviour, domestically and abroad, on prevailing global civil society theory is discussed. Contemporary global civil society theory has largely been shaped out of a language, culture and definition influenced by mainstream Western political philosophy and discourse, and the behaviour of Western social organizations that proliferated in the 20th century. The recent rise of Chinese social organizations, who were born, developed and prospered in an authoritarian institutional environment – with varying political values and norms that their Western counterparts – suggests an urgent re-examination of the fundamental precepts of global civil society.

Finally, I look at China's bi-/multi-directional foreign relations and engagement with global actors. In one study, published in the International Political Science Review [audio paper:  video and podcast] [translations: Chinese, French and German] [public talk: powerpoint], I look at EU-China relations viz. intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement. One of the major arguments advanced is that in order to have effective IP enforcement strategy in China it is necessary to factor state decentralization and the divergent priorities of policy actors in both the developed and less developed regions of the nation. In related meta-thematic studies, I analyze the main determinants of the EU's strategic engagement with China [translations: Chinese, French and German] [public talk: video, podcast and powerpoint], and discuss the internal logic for the EU's approach to China when it comes cyber-technology [audio paper:  video and podcast] [translations: Chinese, French and German] [public talk: powerpoint]. In addition, a study looking at variations in foreign policy topics amongst think tanks in China have been instrumental in shaping my underlying analytical reflections. I have also broadly discussed Western nation's approaches and reactions to China with BBC (UK) and CBC (Canada).  

The project's path-breaking findings on the internationalization of Chinese social organizations and their impact on various precepts and practices, was recognized with the prestigious Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) President’s Award for Non-Profit Research.

One of the legacies stemming from this project is a long-term study looking at how Chinese citizens' think about other foreign jurisdictions [summary: English, Chinese and French] [public talk: video, podcast and powerpoint], and their relationship with China in the 2020s.