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137 6 DOMESTIC ACTORS AND THE FRAGMENTATION OF CHINA’S FOREIGN POLICY Linda Jakobson INTRODUCTION The emergence of new foreign policy actors in China is transforming the country’s decision-making environment.1 As China has become more powerful —economically, politically, and militarily—its global outreach has expanded. Simultaneously, the number of groups and institutions seeking to influence China’s foreign policy has multiplied. Decisions made about China’s policies in the international arena, on issues ranging from commerce and investment to anti-piracy and climate change, affect broad sectors of Chinese society and are scrutinized by the numerous actors who wish to advance their own agendas. These actors are both influential organizations or institutions within the official decision-making apparatus of China—the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese government, and the People ’s Liberation Army (PLA)—and various groups on the margins of the traditional power structure. The Communist Party of China and the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have separate decision-making structures, although some offices overlap in function, authority, and even personnel. The CPC’s authority is supreme, hence the CPC’s highest body—the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC)—retains the ultimate decision-making power. It exercises this power on key foreign and security policy decisions and seeks to “set the tone for and outline the broad contours of China’s foreign policy,” but it 138 Linda Jakobson leaves lower levels to work out implementation details.2 This structure allows a variety of actors—whether official or on the margins—to exert or attempt to exert influence over foreign policy. Subordinates at various levels interpret instructions from the top in ways that suit their own institutional interests. Within the Chinese government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) used to be regarded as the leading entity on foreign policy. Today the MFA faces competition for influence from among other bodies: the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of State Security, the Ministry of Public Security, People’s Bank of China, and China’s Development Bank. Each of these government bodies has expanded its international outreach in its respective field, which has resulted in intense rivalry both with the MFA and with other official foreign policy actors. The number of official actors in competition for control ranges widely from issue to issue. Official actors can include institutions as varied as the CPC Policy Research Office, the NDRC, or the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps. As for the actors on the margins, in other words outside the traditional confines of the CPC and the government, the most important ones are business executives, especially directors of state-owned enterprises in the resource sector; local governments, especially local leaders in the border and coastal regions; prominent researchers and leading intellectuals who for one reason or another have close ties to individual Politburo members; and prominent media representatives and the online community, the so-called netizens. Among the new foreign policy actors, netizens are looked upon as the most dynamic.3 The expansion of the Internet and the commercialization of the media have dramatically transformed interactions between officials and citizens . People in China are permitted to express their views, both on opinion pages in commercial newspapers and on the Internet, more freely than would have been imaginable a decade ago. The perspectives and sources of information available to the ordinary citizen have multiplied greatly, but it does not mean that citizens have genuine freedom of expression. Authorities try to steer public opinion, sometimes by encouraging a certain stance on a given issue and at other times by suppressing public opinion when it is deemed to be detrimental to the government’s objectives. Blog writers on popular foreign affairs websites often criticize Chinese leaders for being weak and bowing to international pressure. Officials are acutely aware of how rapidly a dissatisfaction with foreign policy can give rise to questioning the leadership’s ability to govern. Hence, China’s leaders at times appear to feel constrained by public opinion and especially by the views of the online community during international crises involving China. Domestic Actors and the Fragmentation of China’s Foreign Policy 139 This is especially relevant when Japan or the United States is involved or when international attention focuses on issues related to Taiwan or Tibet. The pluralization of Chinese society coupled with China’s growing interdependence with the international order has put enormous pressure on...


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