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China's Provinces as Global Actors: Evidence from China-Africa Relations

charlotte lenz


Charlotte Lenz

China Foresight Associate

With the launch in the early 2000s of China’s ‘Going Global’ Strategy, Chinese provinces became one group of actors participating in China’s South-South relations. In this Strategic Update, Charlotte Lenz investigates the role of Chinese provinces as foreign policy actors and explains their internationalisation strategies, challenging the prevalent perception of China as a unitary actor on the world stage. Drawing on evidence from Africa-China relations, the report identifies two strategies employed by Chinese provinces in pursuit of their foreign policy interests: (1) Formal and informal “twinning” as a collaborative model between central and local actors, wherein central actors design policies and provincial governments execute projects; (2) and “clustering” according to a sectoral logic of investment and diplomacy in which a certain Chinese province engages a certain foreign country. Despite ongoing bureaucratic centralisation under Xi Jinping, provinces continue to pursue their own internationalisation strategies to help meet local economic and employment targets. Understanding their agency, interests and limitations is thus key to deriving a better understanding of China’s evolving global presence.

Read the online edition:

China's Provinces as Global Actors

Download the PDF:

 China’s Provinces as Global Actors


About the author

Charlotte Lenz is an associate at China Foresight. After studying Chinese domestic politics during her Bachelors, Charlotte Lenz obtained 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.