Democracy Paradox
Democracy Paradox
Nov 23, 2020
Xiaoyu Pu on China's Global Identities
Play • 57 min

China is a nation of contradictions. It is a developing economy that is an economic powerhouse. It is a rising power that is already a great power. It is a communist state that has embraced capitalism. The dualism of yin and yang is not simply an element of Chinese philosophy. It is a source of modern Chinese identity. 

This is part two of “Liberalism, Capitalism, Communism” about the global ascendance of China. Last week was about liberal internationalism. Next week will focus on the global influence of the Chinese Communist Party. Part 1 was about liberalism. Part 3 is about communism. This is Part 2 but it is not about capitalism. 

This week will explore how China’s different sources of identity shape its foreign policy. It is about how an illiberal state adapts to a liberal world order. I want to convey the nuance and complexity of modern China as it exists today. So this week is not about capitalism but the juxtaposition of capitalism and communism. It is about the reconciliation of its many contradictions. And it is about the challenges for China to continue to evolve and transform.

The contradictions and complexities intrinsic to Chinese identity are present in its foreign policy. Xiaoyu Pu writes, “China’s grand strategy has no coherent blueprint, and there are competing visions for its emerging roles on the world stage. This is not to argue that Beijing has no grand strategy but rather that Beijing’s grand strategy includes contradictory elements.”

Xiaoyu is an Associate Professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno and the author of Rebranding China: Contested Status Signaling in the Changing Global Order. There is a lot to worry about China’s global ascendance. But Xiaoyu believes much of the alarm is overblown. Let me restate that he does not believe there is no cause for concern, but he does offer an alternative perspective. 

Our conversation explores topics as diverse as the domestic politics in China to an analysis of its use of sharp power. We discuss not just China’s prospects for democratization, but whether China must democratize to become a dominant hegemonic power.

Thanks to Apes of the State for permission to use their tracks "The Internet Song" and "Bill Collector's Theme Song." You can find their music on Spotify or their Bandcamp.

Please visit my blog at I have written 80 reviews of both classic and contemporary works of political science with an emphasis on democracy. This week I reviewed John Dewey's classic Democracy and Education. Please visit the website and read my book reviews. And don't forget to subscribe to keep up with future episodes.

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