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HomeGeopolitical CompassEast AsiaHow Not to Win Allies and Influence Geopolitics: China’s Self-Defeating Economic Statecraft

How Not to Win Allies and Influence Geopolitics: China’s Self-Defeating Economic Statecraft

Author: Audrye Wong

Affiliation: Harvard Kennedy School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Security Studies Program

Organization /Publisher: Foreign Affairs  

Date/Place: May-June, 2021/USA

Type of Literature: Article 

Word Count: 4097


Keywords: Geopolitics, Statecraft, China, Allies, Self-defeat 




Author Audrye Wong discusses China’s economic expansion as a counterproductive challenge instead of sustaining its geopolitical position. She argues that the Chinese government’s strategies to weaponize its trade relationships are evident because it is not hesitant about leveraging access to its consumer market to pressure foreign governments and firms to obey its policies. In Australia, Beijing used Chinese businesspeople (later exposed and put in prison) as proxies to make campaign contributions and fund academic institutes to persuade politicians and other voices to support China’s positions on the South China Sea and human rights. In the recent case regarding the origins of COVID-19, when Australia called for an independent inquiry, China imposed tariffs on a range of Australian products. The author criticizes the economic expansion as “subversive carrots” because Chinese companies have bypassed the process of competitive bidding and regulatory approval to secure a contract, often at inflated costs, generating extra profits for both Chinese actors and local elites. The author concludes that China’s rapidly expanding overseas economic presence, particularly when accompanied by subversion and coercion, may exacerbate strategic fears worldwide. Chinese officials may still think that economic development naturally promotes goodwill and gratitude among recipients, but there is good reason to believe that they are wrong. The author believes that China cannot count on automatically converting its growing economic clout into a new geopolitical reality.


By: Razia Wadood, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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