We Are the Same: The Invisible Source of China’s Popularity in Developing Countries

Competition with other great powers in garnering cooperation and supports from developing countries, neither does China behave less exploitive, nor is it more technologically advanced and economically abundant and generous to provide assistance, nor does it possess more mature management experiences than former colonizers.

Despite all the disadvantages, however, China’s popularity has been rising over the past two decades. Rational explanations deriving from the emergence of common threats or the correction of market failure do not provide the full picture. In this paper, I argue that China’s popularity can be found through the lens of self-categorization theory (SCT), which delineate an invisible line for developing countries to recognize China as an ingroup member. Five social categories are identified to search for the sources of group cohesiveness, which are a country’s developing level, colonial history, regime type, geographical location, and culture. Quantitative evidence shows that while dealing with global affairs, the emergence of solidarity between China and developing countries is more likely to occur if they share qualitative similarities in developing level, colonial history and regime type.

Keyword: China, developing countries, self-categorization theory, social identity, intergroup relations

Author: Ian Tsung-yen Chen

Status: Under review

History: This paper was first presented at the Retrospect and Prospect on the Fiftieth Anniversary of African National Independence Conference, Taipei, November 11, 2010

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