Chinese Provinces as Foreign Policy Actors

Due to its party-centred political system, China is often depicted as a unitary actor in international relations. Yet, despite General Secretary Xi Jinping’s ongoing political centralisation in recent years, sub-state actors such as Chinese provinces continue to influence China’s overall posture across the Global South. Charlotte Lenz’s Strategic Update focused on the strategies Chinese provinces use to internationalise and the lessons this holds for our understanding of China’s economic and diplomatic engagement in Africa. Provincial economic and diplomatic activities, mediated through “clustering” and “twinning” policies to encourage sub-state actors to “go out”, continue to shape China’s presence in Africa in important ways and present us with a more complex picture of China’s footprint in international affairs.

Drawing on examples from China-Africa relations, this China Foresight event discussed the continued role of provinces under Xi and the implications this has for China’s relationship with Africa during the “new era”.


This webinar was held on Thursday 26 January.

Meet the speakers and chair

Dr Xin Sun is a member of the China Foresight forum at LSE IDEAS. He is Senior Lecturer in Chinese and East Asian Business at the Lau China Institute and King’s Business School, King’s College London. He holds a PhD in political science at Northwestern University and bachelor degrees in Chemistry and Economics at Peking University. His research interests focus on government-business relations and the politics of land and property rights in China. His recent articles have appeared in Journal of Public Policy, Political Studies, Problems of Post Communism, The China Journal and World Development. His research and interviews have been frequently featured in media such as BBC News, Economist, Financial Times, Insider, NBC News, Reuters, Quartz, and South China Morning Post.

Charlotte Lenz studied Chinese domestic politics during her Bachelors, then went on to obtain her Master’s degree in International Relations from the London Schools of Economics and Political Science, focusing on the role of Chinese provinces as foreign policy actors. She is currently working for the United Nations Development Programme in the Republic of Moldova and a Researcher at China Foresight.

Chris Alden is Director of LSE IDEAS and Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.