China’s authoritarian leadership and censorship

29 March 2018

Over the last few weeks, China has undergone many radical changes. We have picked two articles that focus on how China’s government turned into an authoritarian dictatorship after a swift change in its constitution and the growing censorship on China’s state-controlled social media platforms. Both articles consider how these events can create major impacts for other markets as well as businesses.

How the West got China wrong

In an unanticipated recent announcement, President Xi Jinping has changed China’s constitution by removing presidential term limits, allow him to rule China indefinitely. As part of his “take-over” Xi also plans to implement stricter surveillance and media control, while promoting the Chinese model of governance to other countries. This move came as a surprise for the West who was betting on China adopting a democratic model of governance after becoming included in global economic partnerships such as the World Trade Organization. Although China has successfully been integrated into the global economy and is currently the biggest exporter with great business opportunities, most businesses in this region are increasingly state controlled. While these businesses follow some of the Western rules, they are also creating their own models. One example is the Belt and Road Initiative where participating countries must accept the Chinese model of dispute-resolution, as well as other business rules based on Chinese wisdom. When those rules are broken, China tends to use business and trade to punish the “deviating” firms as well as other countries’ governments. These changes and behaviours mean that Western businesses need to be careful when collaborating with Chinese businesses or engaging with the Chinese market and push for implementation of stronger policies and operational transparency in state-owned businesses in an increasingly authoritarian and controlled China.

Read the full article on The Economist website.

China's war on words: Anything used to insult Xi Jinping, banned

Besides changing the constitution, Xi Jinping has also taken censorship to a whole new level by banning all negative comments or words that show discontent on social media platforms. After the ban came into effect, words such as “emperor”, “control”, “two term limit” and “disagree” have been blocked and removed from state controlled platforms such as Weibo and Baidu. Mentioning books that talk about dystopian worlds that are oppressed by authoritarian leaderships or using memes that potentially portray Xi Jinping in anything other than positive light are now forbidden in the public forums. So what do these bans mean for other countries and businesses wanting to engage with Chinese consumers? The re-writing of the terms of use of Chinese social media platforms means that business owners need to learn to carefully navigate the new social media “etiquette” to avoid offending Xi’s China without losing potential business opportunities.

Read the full article on the NZ Herald website.  

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