Building legitimacy? The role of Chinese contract workers in foreign regimes’ political strategies

Review of International Political Economy

Over the past two decades, the number of Chinese workers sent overseas to complete engineering and construction projects has increased significantly along with the expanding role of Chinese companies in foreign countries, including low- and middle-income states with large populations. Yet, there has been little systematic analysis of this phenomenon. This article hypothesizes that differences in the strategies adopted by governments in democratic and non-democratic countries to boost performance-based legitimacy claims make the latter more willing to allow Chinese companies to bring Chinese workers. Statistical analysis of a new global country-year panel dataset from 2004 to 2019 and two case studies of Algeria and Ghana support this hypothesis. This article points to the importance of host regime type in shaping China’s human presence overseas, and prompts important considerations on the political consequences of job creation around (Chinese) infrastructure projects and the economic impact of Chinese workers in foreign countries.

Andrea Ghiselli (T.wai & Fudan University) and Pippa Morgan (Duke Kunshan University) are authors of the article “Building legitimacy? The role of Chinese contract workers in foreign regimes’ political strategies” published in the Review of International Political Economy.

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