Work in Progress

Andrea Ghiselli and Joshua Eisenmann. The Lurking Theory: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and the Enduring Influence of Modernization Theory on America’s China Policy (Under review).

Abstract: The inconvenient truth that China is unlikely to embrace liberal democracy has dawned and America’s foreign policy elite are now searching for a new China policy. Yet, few have investigated why the U.S. “got China wrong.” Existing explanations either emphasize the influence of lobbies and bureaucratic politics, or Chinese leaders’ unpredictable changes. But neither argument considers how ideas shaped American perceptions of itself and its policy toward China. Drawing on the constructivist and foreign policy analysis literatures, we trace the influence of modernization theory and its contemporary offshoots – neoconservatism and neoliberalism – on U.S. China policy since the 1950s. Neoliberal policymakers from both parties tried to use engagement to transform China into a “modern” country like the U.S., while neoconservatives aimed to secure America by eliminating obstacles to Beijing’s economic and political liberalization. We demonstrate how modernization theory’s pervasive influence created cognitive blind spots among U.S. foreign policy elites that led them to overlook alternative scenarios producing under-balancing vis-à-vis China. Between 1989-2016, U.S. policymakers mistook China’s emulation of U.S. economic policies as evidence that it would adopt American political values, rather than as the behavior of an aspiring competitor learning from the established world leader.

Andrea Ghiselli and Mohammed al-Sudairi. Exploiting China’s Rise: Syria’s Strategic Narrative and China’s Participation in Middle Eastern Politics.

Abstract: The paper finds that the Syrian state articulates a strategic narrative which significantly overstates its relationship with China for domestic and foreign policy reasons, including deceiving Western observers and policymakers. These findings challenge the mainstream Western scholarly and journalistic imaginings of China as playing a major role in Syria and its civil war. This paper also prompts important considerations about the dynamics of China’s engagement with the Middle East and how scholars should study it.

This manuscript builds on: Andrea Ghiselli and Mohammed Turki Al-Sudairi (2019). Syria’s ‘China Dream’: Between the Narratives and Realities. King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies Commentary. September 17. Link to the article.

Andrea Ghiselli and Pippa Morgan. Built by China: China’s Global Economic and Human Presence beyond Aid and Investment (Under review).

Abstract: The rise of China’s global economic footprint is arguably the most significant geopolitical and geoeconomic development of the 21st century. However, whilst there is substantial empirical research on Chinese official finance and foreign direct investment (FDI), much less is known about Chinese firms–and the workers they bring with them–completing contracting projects overseas. In part this is due to a lack of accessible quantitative data. We introduce a new data set of Chinese contracting activities compiled from official sources. We emphasize three key points, each of which point to the need for further research. First, Chinese contractors are active in almost all world regions, with Asia, not Africa, being the largest, pointing to a need to “zoom out” beyond Africa. Second, most overseas contracts won by Chinese firms are not funded by the Chinese government or policy banks, but by other sources. Third, the presence of Chinese contract workers in risky overseas locations leads to an “economy-security nexus” which poses challenges for both the Chinese and host governments. Given the scale of Chinese overseas contracting, which is larger than either its FDI or official finance, this data is of substantial relevance to scholars of international politics and political economy.

Andrea Ghiselli. The Scientific Study of Chinese Foreign Policy: Looking at China through the Lens of Foreign Policy Analysis (Under review).

Abstract: As the Sino-American competition intensifies and the risk of misperception increases, it is necessary to better understand Chinese foreign policy. However, the poor theoretical treatment of the domestic factors and, especially, the decision-making process is a significant issue in most of the analyses produced by International Relations generalists, as well as China specialists. To address such a problem, this study draws from Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) to show two ways in which the concept of decision-making unit can produce new and fresh insights into Chinese foreign policy. First, it helps investigating in a systematic manner if and how different factors and actors can shape Chinese foreign policy. Second, it allows the analyst to theorize his/her way into the halls of power where Chinese foreign policy is made, shedding light on how policymakers understand foreign policy problems and their options to address them. The benefits of this approach are showcased in a case study on an issue that is both important and difficult to study: China’s approach to the protection of its interests overseas. Beyond prompting considerations about how to analyze China’s foreign policy, this study also offers insights into how FPA can benefit from these efforts.