China Report

China Report; 58(4)

I Articles

  • ‘‘Cold from Gold: Chinese Miners Face New Realities in Ghana
    Daniel Nkrumah and Daniel Norris Bekoe
  • New Media Activism and Politics of Ecology in the People’s Republic of China
    Justin Joseph and Joe Thomas Karackattu
  • Between Geopolitics and Development: The Belt and Road Initiative and the Limits of Capital Accumulation in China
    Tolga Demiryol
  • Russian-Chinese Cooperation at the United Nations Security Council: Costly Signalling and Trust Building in the Strategic Partnership
    James P. Machaffie

An Introductory Note for the Articles

China has maintained strong relationships with many African countries, and Ghana is one such country. While the two countries have normally enjoyed good friendly relations, concerns over the involvement of Chinese citizens in small-scale mining in Ghana threaten the cordial relationship between the two countries. The article by Daniel Nkrumah and Daniel Norris Bekoe states that there is evidence of a cultural evolution and a gradual shift from a culture of enthusiastic reception of local people to the Chinese in the area of mining to one of cold reception to Chinese interests in mining communities. There is also evidence that this cold reception to Chinese miners is stimulated by non-state actors led by the media and inspires in Ghana a new paradigm of more rational engagement with China at the political level, although challenges still remain.

The environmental sector is an interesting realm in Chinese politics to observe factors such as the contributions of new media activism in bottom-up communication and decision-making processes, especially during the 40 years of reform and opening up. Top-down efforts to curb environmental issues are primarily to address increasing pubic discomfort due to pollution and related problems. However, environmental movements are increasingly visible in China despite their application of stability maintenance mechanisms such as Environmental Police. It is therefore noteworthy to deeply analyse the factors that contribute to the increasing scale of movements in the country. The study by Justin Joseph and Joe Thomas Karackattu examines the role of new media activism (occurring due to the public’s interactions through WeChat, Weibo, QQ, etc.) in shaping the trajectory of environmental movements in China. How are these avenues supporting alternative communication channels outside the mainstream policy making apparatus? Is the government willing to incorporate the interests developed in these channels to policymaking realms? How these behavioural changes are influencing the state–society relations in contemporary China in the context of increasing environmental concerns. The study employs agency-structure framework to analyse the interactions between new media activism and the single party ruling political structure with the support fieldwork data from China. The study examines policy documents, official declarations of the communist party, public attitude towards new media activism, and so on, in order to present a comprehensive understanding on the politics of ecology in the PRC.

What drives China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)? While some claim that the BRI is primarily about economic development, others see it as a grand strategy of a rising power with hegemonic aspirations. Is the BRI about development or geopolitics? The article by Tolga Demiryol adopts a political economy approach to bridge the developmental and geopolitical perspectives on the BRI. The primary argument is that the BRI signifies an attempt by the Chinese state to manage internal problems of capital accumulation by externalising development. In this sense, this is a typical crisis of capitalist development which generates a drive for geographic expansion and restructuring. The distinguishing feature of the BRI, apart from its sheer scale, is its emphasis on connectivity. Rather than simply exporting excess capital and capacity onto others, the BRI seeks to re-territorialise developmental spaces by connecting them via economic corridors consisting of hard and soft infrastructure networks. It is also contended here that in the process of constructing new infrastructures of capital, the BRI creates space for new forms of asymmetric interdependence between China and its partners. To the extent that such asymmetric relations generate costs of exiting China-centred networks, the initiative serves a geopolitical as well as a developmental function. Asymmetric interdependencies, whether they are by design or by-products of enhanced connectivity, thus facilitate China’s pursuit for a more prominent role in the international order.

China and Russia have a demonstrable record of coordinating their votes at the United Nations Security Council over the past 12 years. China, in particular, has coordinated its vetoes to align with Russia, while Russia still uses its veto in isolation of other states, except for Chinese abstentions. It is widely acknowledged in the literature on Chinese–Russian foreign relations that the two states are in a strategic partnership; however, there is open debate as to how long this partnership can be sustained. Both China and Russia seem to value the partnership, but trust-building is needed to sustain it due to the growing power imbalance between them. One way that trust can be built is through costly signalling, which provides reassurances to the receiving state that the signaller has benign intentions. The article by James P. Machaffie argues that China is engaged in costly signalling to Russia by aligning its votes with Moscow at the expense of angering the other permanent members of the Security Council—the United States, France and the United Kingdom—which in turn sours the relations between them. China is attempting to reassure Russia, the weaker partner, that it still values their friendship, and Russia has reciprocated by relying more on China.


II Book Reviews

  • Book Review: Harsh V. Pant, ed., China Ascendant: Its Rise and Implications
    Sachin Singh
  • Book Review: Hiroshi Hirabayashi, India: The Last Superpower
    Kishan S. Rana
  • Book Review: Stanly Johny and Ananth Krishnan, Comrades and the Mullahs: China, Afghanistan and the New Asian Geopolitics
    Avinash Paliwal

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