EASSC Publications


Examining legitimacy and leadership in China’s authoritarian model in the era of Trump: towards acceptance of Chinese leadership in Southeast Asia

Date of this Version


Document Type

Conference Paper


This paper draws attention to the question of Chinese governmental legitimacy and leadership in light of Washington’s new disinterest in regional trade initiatives under Trump. Does the Trump administration’s repudiation of regional trade liberalism further empower Chinese regional leadership and acceptance of Chinese trade initiatives? This paper examines this question by analysing the literature on Southeast Asian perceptions of China, authoritarian diffusion theory, recent discussion on the Trump administration, and with a brief look at Chinese development initiatives. The conclusion suggests that acceptable conditions are converging that will allow China to take on a leadership role as Beijing tries to fill an economic initiative gap left by the Trump administration. While there is no evidence to suggest that autocratic diffusion is taking place in the region, the literature suggests that neither is the liberal-democratic model making headway in the area. The region is at a directional crossroads: to maintain liberal-democratic norms or support the erosion of them with new economic initiatives guided by Chinese leadership.

Journal, Book or Conference Title

East Asia Security Symposium and Conference 东亚安全座谈谈论会

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