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2nd Webinar - Decentralisation and the Challenges to Chinese Foreign Policy Making

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Report by Julius Geißler

We were delighted a few days ago (October 17) to have the opportunity to welcome Martin Šebeňa, a PhD candidate in European Studies at the University of Hong Kong, as the speaker for our second Webinar.

In his talk, Martin introduced his research, which aims to depart from viewing China as a unitary actor towards an analysis of Chinese policy, both domestic and foreign, that accounts for the vast variety of political and economic actors in China as well as their influence on national agendas. In order to attain a more nuanced way of looking at China, an understanding of the processes of decentralisation and transformation is crucial, he argued. Highlighting spheres in which we can compare the European Union with the People’s Republic of China, Martin presented how theoretical frameworks already used in European Studies can be applied to the Chinese context. Having given a historical overview of the trends of decentralisation and transition, especially related to the reform period, he argued that these developments did not only play an important role in China’s economic rise, but did come with significant difficulties and challenges, among them corruption and uneven stages of development. Martin showed that the heterogeneous nature of Chinese bureaucracy and administration does in fact have an influence on Chinese foreign and security policy. He managed to illustrate this theoretical framework by referring to concrete cases.

The ensuing vital discussion with the audience covered topics such as China’s anti-corruption campaign, an alleged return to a trend of recentralisation, and the relation between the fragmented political landscape and China’s ambitious infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

If you are eager to witness the entire Webinar, you can watch it on our YouTube channel!


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