Feb 12, 2020 - World

Between the lines on Chinese strategy: "Use the local to surround the center"

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In this recurring feature from the Axios China newsletter, I'll interview an expert about a Chinese Communist Party phrase to explain the news.

The phrase: "Use the local to surround the center." (以地方包围中央)

What it means: Building up support for China at the state and local levels in a foreign country so that those leaders may then call upon the national government to adopt policies that are friendlier to Beijing.

The expert take: Anne-Marie Brady, a political scientist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, tells me this strategy usually involves political funding of some kind via...

  • Chinese government proxy groups and individuals.
  • Subsidized trips to China.
  • Business partnerships.
  • Directorships on Chinese companies.
  • Special economic agreements such as a local-level signing up to the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Business and political connections via "friendships," aka "sister cities."

The bottom line: The Chinese Communist Party cares about cultivating mayors and state officials in countries thousands of miles away, Brady says, because...

  • They make decisions. "Local and state governments have a lot of delegated powers for governance over various aspects of society and they also are frequently the bodies which make decisions on infrastructure projects."
  • They're vulnerable. "They don’t tend to have much depth in foreign policy knowledge, which tends to make them even more vulnerable to foreign interference activities than national-level bodies."
  • They put the economy first. "Local government tends to prioritize economic development as a key marker of good governance, so they tend to be very attracted to China’s economic diplomacy efforts."

Go deeper: China’s playbook for hooking local governments

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,929,312 — Total deaths: 357,781 — Total recoveries — 2,385,926Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,709,996 — Total deaths: 101,002 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Business: Louisiana senator says young people are key to reopening the economy —U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter, round two

President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

Go deeper: Twitter vs. Trump... vs. Twitter

1 hour ago - Politics & Policy