Making the world safe for autocracy: Jessica Chen Weiss on what Beijing wants
Jessica Chen Weiss is Associate Professor of Government at Cornell University and a prolific writer on Chinese nationalism and China's international relations. Kaiser sat down with her recently to hear her ideas on how we should understand what it is that Beijing ultimately wants, on how to right-size the challenges that China poses to the liberal world order, and about the CCP's relationship with its own nationalistic populace.
What to listen for on this week’s Sinica Podcast:
10:44: Has China played a role in the global retreat from democracy? Jessica provides some insight: “I think there’s a greater risk of exaggerating China’s role and not recognizing the domestic factors, and other international factors that are leading to democratic backsliding around the world. China has done some things, first, to demonstrate that autocracy can work, sort of leading by example. It’s also made cheap financing available to governments that wouldn’t otherwise have access to it. It has exported some technologies that governments can use to surveil their populations. But I don’t think that it has by and large been the main force driving democratic backsliding and erosion.”
27:56: Jessica describes the tightrope Beijing must walk when navigating an increasingly hawkish Chinese public, referencing an article she wrote in May of this year: “I think surveys can help establish the baseline public opinion the Chinese government faces as it tries to navigate international disputes...the government has a lot of leeway to maneuver vis-à-vis public opinion. Rhetoric can obviously shape public opinion, and it’s important to document that. But, they still face costs for doing so. And the more hawkish the public is, the more the Chinese government has to dial back that appetite for conflict when trying to finesse a particular diplomatic situation in which maybe the online public is calling for war. There’s not a winning scenario there.”
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