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The Provinces and China’s Multi-Layered Diplomacy: The Cases of GMS and Africa

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China’s diplomacy has become increasingly multi-layered, as provinces and cities step up efforts to expand their networks and involvement in foreign affairs. This article aims to provide a general picture about how Chinese provinces feature in the overall Chinese foreign policy system. Specifically, the article uses two cases to illustrate how such a multi-layered diplomatic system functions to meet the interests of the national and local governments. The first case discusses the role of Yunnan province in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Economic Cooperation. Yunnan’s involvement in GMS as a local actor demonstrates how cross-border cooperation has served local developmental interest as well as China’s national foreign policy goals. It also gave rise to a new form in China’s multi-layered diplomacy, namely multi-layered multilateral diplomacy. The second case is the engagement of China’s provinces in Africa. The article identifies Chinese provinces’ roles in Africa as traders, investors, aid providers and intergovernmental actors. The article also discusses how foreign countries and China itself should cope with China’s new multi-layered engagement in international affairs.

Affiliations: 1: Department of International Politics, Fudan University, Shanghai China, Email:; 2: Centre for European Studies, Fudan University Shanghai China, Email:; 3: Policy Research Centre for Environment and Economics Ministry of Environment Protection China, Email:


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