news·3 min read

China’s global influence: A guide to its power

China's global influence
Jul 29, 2019

The Story

China wants to pull a Jack Dawson and be king of the world.

Can I get some background here?

Thanks to a package of reforms intro’d in the late ‘70s, China has experienced off-the-charts economic growth in recent decades. It has made its military a literal force to be reckoned with, invested hundreds of billions of dollars abroad, and brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty (although many people are still struggling). The strong economy has also helped maintain support at home for the country’s authoritarian regime, which has been exercising increasing control over its citizens. Oh, and BTW it’s the most populous country in the world.

Okay China, we see you.

We sure do. And all of this means that it’s well positioned to exert more influence globally than most countries. Think: using surveillance to monitor text messages, censoring the internet, using facial recognition tech to identify and fine jaywalkers. We kid you not.

I believe you...but I'm scared. So how exactly is it going to pull that off? 

Meet, China’s playbook. The goals are threefold:

  • Grow its military and economic power

  • Project a positive image of itself abroad

  • Try to convince more countries to sit with China at the lunch table. Aka build relationships and gain allies.

At least China knows what it wants.

That makes one of us. China’s has a sophisticated strategy for accomplishing all of this, and includes both overt and covert operations. Including…  

  • Xi Jinping. China’s president since 2013. He’s considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong aka the founder of modern China. Xi is the one responsible for taking the country’s ambitions to the next level. It helps that China’s legislature voted to do Xi a solid and get rid of presidential term limits, plus enshrined his ideology in China’s constitution. Meaning he pretty much has a green light to do essentially whatever he wants and will be around indefinitely to see these plans through.  

  • Speaking of plans, here’s what Xi has in mind: the Belt and Road initiative – China’s plan to develop massive trade infrastructure connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe. Part of this involves investing billions of dollars in projects, making other countries literally indebted to China. Pop your headphones in because Skimm Notes (a premium feature of theSkimm app. It's worth it, and we swear we're not just saying that) goes deep on this initiative, and why it’s raising alarm bells for the future of diplomacy and China’s military strength.

  • United Front. United Front is an organizational arm of the Chinese Communist Party that Xi’s government has called a “magic weapon.” A big part of United Front work involves influencing Chinese people in other countries, and encouraging party loyalty, and also tamping down opposition. It can be difficult to nail down exactly what this entails. But, for example, United Front officials will reportedly meet with local chapters of Chinese groups around the world. Or work with student groups to promote the Communist Party agenda.

We get into its other strategies,  plus what all this means for the rest of the world, in theSkimm app. Every week, the app goes deep on a different news topic to give you the context you need to understand what's going in the world. Download the app now, and you get the first week free.

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