Peer-reviewed Publications

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Andrea Ghiselli (2023). An opportunistic Russia in the Middle East, a view from China. Cambridge Review of International Affairs. Link to the article.

As Sino-American competition and Russo-American tensions continue to rise, many believe that China and Russia have established an increasingly well-coordinated division of labor to undermine the United States. Yet, this discussion has long neglected the analysis of Sino-Russian relations in the Middle East despite the importance of that region. Hence, this article investigates how Russian actions there are perceived in China through the analysis of the debate among Chinese foreign policy experts. Russia is seen as an opportunistic actor whose behavior is only partially consistent with Chinese interests. However, problems related to China’s own Middle East policy and the pressure caused by the rivalry with the United States in Asia greatly limit China’s capability to adopt a more assertive approach. These findings prompt important considerations about the dynamics of the triangular Sino-Russian-American relations. They also help us to understand Chinese foreign policy and the evolution of world politics better.

Andrea Ghiselli and Pippa Morgan (2022). Building legitimacy? The Role of Chinese Contract Workers in Foreign Regimes’ Political Strategies. Review of International Political Economy. Link to the article.

Over the past two decades, the number of Chinese workers sent overseas to complete engineering and construction projects has increased significantly along with the expanding role of Chinese companies in foreign countries, including low- and middle-income states with large populations. Yet, there has been little systematic analysis of this phenomenon. This article hypothesizes that differences in the strategies adopted by governments in democratic and non-democratic countries to boost performance-based legitimacy claims make the latter more willing to allow Chinese companies to bring Chinese workers. Statistical analysis of a new global country-year panel dataset from 2004 to 2019 and two case studies of Algeria and Ghana support this hypothesis. This article points to the importance of host regime type in shaping China’s human presence overseas, and prompts important considerations on the political consequences of job creation around (Chinese) infrastructure projects and the economic impact of Chinese workers in foreign countries.

Andrea Ghiselli and Mohammed Alsudairi (2022). Exploiting China’s Rise: Syria’s Strategic Narrative and China’s Participation in Middle Eastern Politics. Global Policy, Volume 14, Issue S1, 19-35. Link to the article.

China’s rise has fueled much speculation about its potential involvement in regional crises across the world, and especially in the Middle East. In this debate, the agency of local actors is often ignored, and China is described as actively pursuing a long-term strategy to expand its influence in other regions at the expense of the United States. Taking the Syrian civil war as a case study, this study challenges, if not wholly overturns, this mainstream analysis. Through the comparative juxtaposition of Syrian official discourse and Chinese actions, it finds that the Syrian state articulates a strategic narrative which significantly overstates its relationship with China for domestic and foreign policy reasons. This narrative, which depicts China as a supporter of an anti-American regional coalition that also includes Iran and its allies, has been picked up by Western observers, thereby creating a distorted image of China’s level of engaging in Syria and the region more broadly. Accordingly, this paper also prompts important considerations about the dynamics of China’s engagement with the Middle East and how scholars should study it.

Andrea Ghiselli and Pippa Morgan (2021). A Turbulent Silk Road: China’s Vulnerable Foreign Policy in the Middle East and North Africa. The China Quarterly, Volume 247, 641-661. Link to the article (free for download here).

Abstract: The nexus between China’s human and economic presence abroad and its security policy is increasingly important. Within this nexus, this study statistically explores whether and to what extent Chinese contractors reduce the number of Chinese nationals they send to work in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa when the security situation in host states worsens. We find no significant evidence that either warnings from Chinese embassies and consulates to leave host countries, or expert perceptions of host stability, influence the number of Chinese workers. Worker numbers appear to decrease significantly only in the aftermath of large-scale violent events. These findings suggest that Chinese companies are relatively acceptant of security risks and uncertainties, despite the decade-long regulatory efforts of the Chinese government to make them more security-conscious overseas and, thus, to reduce pressure to use diplomatically and economically expensive military means for their protection.

Andrea Ghiselli and Maria Grazia Giuffrida (2020). China as an Offshore Balancer in the Middle East and North Africa. The RUSI Journal, Volume 165, Issue 7, 10-20. Link to the article.

Abstract: Ten years after the Arab Spring, China’s role in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has become more prominent. Andrea Ghiselli and Maria Grazia Erika Giuffrida argue that China has adopted a strategy of offshore balancing to weaken US influence in that region without, however, making evident attempts to establish its own sphere of influence. They analyse China’s approach to Libya, Syria, and Iran and draw important conclusions for how to understand China’s approach to regional crises, and regional and extra-regional actors.

Andrea Ghiselli (2020). Market Opportunities and Political Responsibilities: The Difficult Development of Chinese Private Security Companies Abroad. Armed Forces & Society, Volume 46, Issue 1, 25–45. Link to the article (free for download here).

Abstract: Building upon the conceptual work of Krahmann and Habermas, this study explains how political power and market forces in China combined to create an enormous domestic market for overseas security services and, at the same time, undermined the full development of domestic private security companies (PSCs). The growing responsiveness of the state to the request for protection of Chinese citizens and assets abroad made room for the initial development of Chinese PSCs’ overseas operations. However, the policy makers’ focus on political loyalty has inhibited the full-fledged maturation of China’s private security industry. So far, large foreign PSCs have been the main beneficiaries of this situation. The future development of Chinese PSCs remains possible in a gradual and pragmatic way, but Chinese policy makers will have to deal with important diplomatic and political questions before the development of any “Chinese Blackwater” will be imaginable.

Andrea Ghiselli (2020) Civil–military relations and organisational preferences regarding the use of the military in Chinese foreign policy: insights from the debate on MOOTW. Journal of Strategic Studies, Volume 43, Issue 3, 421-442. Link to the article.

Abstract: This article analyses the positions of the Chinese civilian leaders and military elites on Military Operations Other Than War in order to shed light on their preferences about the use of the armed forces in foreign policy between the late 1990s and the early 2010s. Over time, a significant divergence developed between civilians and soldiers until 2011, when the Libyan crisis happened. The study also prompts important considerations about our understanding of civil–military relations in China and future role of the People’s Liberation Army as a tool of statecraft in foreign policy.

Andrea Ghiselli (2018). Revising China’s Strategic Culture: Contemporary Cherry-Picking of Ancient Strategic Thought. The China Quarterly, Issue 233, 166-185. Link to the article (free for download here).

Abstract: This article looks at the influence of ancient military thinkers, especially Sunzi, in Chinese strategic culture today to shed light on a critical aspect of Alastair Iain Johnston’s work on strategic culture: the relationship between the foreign policy elites and the cultural artefacts and symbols at the origin of strategic culture. The empirical analysis revolves around a large number of articles published by Chinese military scholars and officers between 1992 and early 2016 in the PLA Academy of Military Science’s journal, China Military Science. The conclusion is that some elements of Chinese ancient military thought are readily apparent in China’s military doctrine and operations today. These elements clearly call for a realist vision of the world, especially within the PLA. Yet, the analysis also prompts reflection on how to positively engage China on non-traditional security issues.

Andrea Ghiselli (2018) Diplomatic Opportunities and Rising Threats: The Expanding Role of Non-Traditional Security in Chinese Foreign and Security Policy. Journal of Contemporary China, Volume 27, Issue 112, 611-625. Link to the article (free for download here).

Abstract: Through the lens of securitization theory, this article looks at the significant impact that non-traditional security has had over Chinese foreign policy. Over time, non-traditional security has changed from being understood as an opportunity to boost China’s international standing, to being seen as an important category within security threats. China’s security and diplomatic behavior has changed accordingly. In particular, China has become more confident in using and authorizing force. This article pinpoints this process started in the 1990s by looking at the debate within the government and the legal, institutional and military response against those new threats. It also prompts important considerations about the drivers and the direction of Chinese foreign policy, and the general approach of studying the same subject.

Andrea Ghiselli (2018). Interpreting China’s Rise in a Decentered World Through the Lens of Peacekeeping and Antipiracy Missions. Chinese Political Science Review, Issue 3, 252–269. Link to the article.

Abstract: The rise of China in international affairs has prompted a vibrant debate among scholars; however, there is no consensus over what kind of power China is. This article argues that China can be seen as the representative of a new breed of great powers emerging in a decentered world. It does so by looking at China’s participation in peacekeeping and antipiracy operations under the aegis of the United Nations. It is possible to see that since the early 1990s China’s strategy has shifted from primarily aiming at being acknowledged as a great power, to trying to exercise its growing international authority effectively to better serve its expanding interests. It did so by strengthening its involvement through the UN in international security affairs.

Andrea Ghiselli (2015) The Chinese People’s Liberation Army ‘Post-modern’ Navy. The International Spectator, Volume 50, Issue 1, 117-136. Link to the article.

Abstract: Developments at both the doctrinal and operational level suggest that the ‘post-modernisation’ of China’s PLA Navy (PLAN) has started. Issues such as the maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas and how to create a network of bases or ‘footholds’ outside Asia might slow down or temporarily halt this process. However, as China’s economic presence expands on a global scale, its security interests and those of the international community will overlap increasingly with one another. Consequently, once its transformation has been completed, the PLAN is likely to become a global and cooperative force.