Balance of influence: China’s Strategy of Relationship Management in Developing Countries

Unlike the realist prediction that a fast-rising state is likely to expand its power bases through harassment and exploitation of weaker states to satisfy its hunger for resources, China tries to keep a low profile and rhetorically stresses its peaceful rise and its role as a responsible power. Instead of using tangible threats, China is more inclined to exert influence by changing perceptions and then cultivating reciprocity.

This paper provides a theory of the balance of influence (BOI), which argues that China seeks to balance against great powers’ social influence in developing countries by creating desirable material benefits and psychological identification. In return, those countries would be more likely to satisfy and recognize China’s needs. This argument is supported by reviewing China’s foreign relationship with developing countries in Africa, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, as well as the views toward China in those countries. Evidence indicates that China’s social influence is relatively expanding. Not only do we see improvement in its global image but we also see favorable treatments toward China.

Keyword: China, developing countries, social influence, balance of influence, balance of power, guanxi

Author: Ian Tsung-yen Chen

Status: Working paper (under review)

History: This paper was presented at the International Studies Association Annual Convention, San Francisco, 2013.

Full Text: Download here