* Challenging state power in China: the formation of new citizen norms in emerging civil society – Project funded by the Swedish Research Council, from 2011 through 2016
The purpose of this project is to investigate the internal challenges against Chinese state power that emanate from two different sources. First, civil society powered by social activism and use of communications technology. Second, from actors inside the party-state apparatus, resulting from exposure to new information channels. The program is guided by the overarching research question – how is the balance of power between Chinese civil society and party-state institutions changing under pressure from use of communications technology and increasing social activism? This project will collect empirical evidence in four issue-areas of crucial importance for understanding civil society’s emergence. These four issue-areas are: The social arena of new citizen activism; Party-state institutions and government bureaucracy; Mainland Chinese business communities; The expanding area of transnational Chinese networks, the global human rights movement, and Chinese citizens. The program employs qualitative methodology seeking to conduct an estimated 80 in-depth interviews with key interlocutors. Through analysis of these interviews and contextualizing material, the program will contribute to, and draw upon, three theoretical debates. First, the nature of civil society in a non-Western context such as China; second, civil society’s and new social media’s role for democratization; third, the role of global civil society and Chinese transnational links in underpinning party-state corporatism, state nationalism, and China’s emerging civil society. Models of state corporatism or civil society have been used to understand state-society relations, but not generated the analytical thrust needed for China. A problem with works in the field is an overly descriptive character and lack of empirical evidence. Civil society in China is still emerging. Today, rights activism is increasing gaining power by new communications technology. This program will build a strong empirical base, expected to yield understanding of the formation of new citizen social norms and their impact on democratization in China
* China in Africa: ‘New’ South-South cooperation and the issue of state sovereignty – Project funded by the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation from 2011-2014
China’s expanding and deepening economic and political relations with African countries, illustrated by trade soaring from $5.5 billion in 1998 to $106.8 billion in 2008, have received much attention from media and policy-makers in recent years. New forms of Sino-African partnerships are redrawing the geopolitical map of Africa. These changes have far-reaching implications for energy security and the existing foreign aid and development paradigm, all of which have impacts on North-South relations in the international system. Yet, what this interaction actually means for South-South cooperation and power distribution between developing countries remains poorly understood. Spanning the issue of state sovereignty at both ends of the Sino-African bilateral spectrum, this project’s research problem concerns China’s longstanding policy of state sovereignty arguably undergoing erosion, and implications of “new” South-South cooperation for the already fragile sovereignty of many African states. The purpose is to critically investigate the impact of Sino-African relations on transformations of Chinese and African conceptions and practices of state sovereignty; on South-South cooperation; and on aspects of the foreign policy process in China. For China, its African engagement is faced with difficulties as the Chinese government, broader foreign policy establishment, and companies may have underestimated simmering conflicts, security threats, and weaknesses of political systems in African countries. They have become exposed to, and entangled in, local conflicts to an extent not fully anticipated. Most analyses of Sino-African relations are still at the aggregate level, hiding country-level specifics. Therefore, to gain a better understanding of how bilateral relations are devloping requires going beyond statistics and government policy papers conducting in-depth fieldwork in both China and Africa. In this project, Zambia and Sudan are chosen as case studies as they have particularly strong economic ties and complex relations with China. The differences between Zambia and Sudan allow for a valuable comparative analysis, as the former is a fledgling democracy where China must adapt to a vocal civil society and local politics, whereas the latter is an unstable autocracy where the crux is intrastate violence, potential regional succession, and international condemnation.