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Books rare insight into Chinese foreign affairs

University of Canterbury
news release
26 January 2004

Book gives rare insight into Chinese foreign affairs

The Chinese method of controlling all things foreign is the subject of a new book by Canterbury University Political Scientist Dr Anne-Marie Brady.

Making the Foreign Serve China: Managing foreigners in the People’s Republic follows the development of the Chinese Communist Party’s foreign affairs system, waishi, from 1921 to the present day. Waishi incorporates state-to-state diplomacy, so-called people’s diplomacy, foreign propaganda, foreign trade, tourism and foreigner management.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s approach to foreign affairs is different than traditional western notions of foreign relations,” explains Brady.

“Waishi is all-inclusive and everything foreign comes under this system.

“This topic has never been looked at before in Chinese or in English. People have speculated about it but never written about it at length, or researched the policies behind it.”

Brady argues that waishi has proven to be one of the most effective tools in the CCP’s repertoire for building and then sustaining its hold on power.

“The foreign affairs system is both a useful way for China to co-ordinate its interactions with the outside world as well as a very effective way of controlling the Chinese population.

“With the opening up of China under Deng Xiaoping, everyone predicted things would become freer, but what actually happened was the foreign affairs system expanded dramatically because the number of foreign interactions increased.

“There is more freedom for foreigners and Chinese in China today but the controls are still there,” says Brady.

“One of the objectives of waishi is to manage a balancing act between the two extremes among the Chinese population, drawing on and manipulating pro- or anti-foreign sentiment in accordance with the political needs of the time,” argues Brady.

“Deng Xiaoping had a great saying – ‘opening the windows without all the flies and mosquitoes coming in’. In effect the foreign affairs system is like a mosquito net – the wind can come in but not the undesirable insects or unwelcome influences.”

Brady’s interest in waishi grew out of research for her book on the CCP’s best-known foreign helper, New Zealander Rewi Alley. Friend of China – The Myth of Rewi Alley is a revisionist account of Alley’s life and his long-standing role as a “friend of China”.

“When I began researching Alley I didn’t know the term ‘Friend of China’ was a political term, used judiciously and not applied to every foreigner. It is a political classification, almost a job description.”

In 1996 Brady came across a classified Chinese book designed for use by Chinese cadres whose job it was to implement the waishi policies.

“It was then things started falling into place.

“I realised ‘foreign friends’ had a specific political role. Friendship is part of a strategic approach to international relations.”

Brady’s groundbreaking research is based on a previously unexplored collection of classified waishi materials, extensive interviews with waishi officials and foreigners, as well as archival research inside and outside of China.

“Waishi is a window on how China’s leaders see increased contract with the outside world, both as a threat and an opportunity. It should not be regarded as simply an example of mere paranoia or xenophobia.

“From the point of view of an overpopulated, resource-rich but technologically backward, developing nation, Chinese-style foreign relations are a means to speed up modernisation, while attempting to protect national interests against foreign incursions.”

Brady says the book will be of interest to anyone who has contact with China.

“Any foreigner going to China or having interactions with Chinese officials is a victim of the foreign affairs system, and is managed according to the policies of that system.”

- Making the Foreign Serve China: Managing Foreigners in the People’s Republic, by Dr Anne-Marie Brady, published by Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc, 312pp. ISBN 0-7425-1862-0.


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