Under Foreign Pressure, Chinese Support Their Government


Denny Roy

Asia Pacific Bulletin, No. 24


Washington D.C.: East-West Center

Publication Date: October 17, 2008
Binding: electronic
Pages: 2


Much of Western, and particularly American, engagement with China has assumed a substantial division between the Chinese people and the Chinese government. This accords with how Westerners view their own political development and how China fits the West's expectations of an authoritarian (read: politically less-developed) country. Chinese political ideology, on the other hand, envisages a tight harmony between the state and its people, obviating the need for a multiparty system or popular election of national leaders. To be sure, practice has not always measured up to theory in Chinese politics, producing due cynicism among the Chinese. The Chinese people are increasingly well-informed about governance shortcomings at home, from tainted food scandals to preferential treatment for families with connections to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. Nevertheless, outsiders are prone to overestimating the gap between the Chinese masses and their leaders. In fact, recent events have narrowed this gap. Foreign criticism often fans a defensive nationalism that bonds the Chinese people with their leaders, and there is a considerable degree of uncoerced assent among Chinese citizens for several important official Chinese policies--facts that foreigners should take note of because they have important implications for China's foreign relations and consequently for the policies of the governments that work with Beijing.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.