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China in One Country: interdependence or globalisation ‘with Chinese characteristics’?

First published: LSE Ideas Strategic Update 13/07/2020

Globalisation has stalled, and may be in retreat. Despite the ongoing financial crisis, trade war, and pandemic, many observers still assert that the United States, the West, and China’s unique economic interdependence will continue to prop up some frayed globalisation. Perhaps so, but we cannot overlook the politics driving ‘decoupling’ in the United States and ‘self-reliance’ in China. Both ideas have their governmental protagonists, and both threaten to undermine globalisation even further.

Although the United States is currently convulsed by division and unrest ahead of the 2020 presidential election, we mostly understand how the US systems of government and business work. We also think we know where America’s interests lie, even if the Trump administration pushes these assumptions to their limit. In China’s case, however, little of this is well understood. When Xi Jinping champions globalisation, what, exactly, does he mean? And what do Chinese leaders mean when they refer to self-reliance? Is it autarky, or a new form of globalisation with Chinese characteristics, as President Xi might say? Read on….