The Post-Pandemic World: Between Constitutionalized and Authoritarian Orders – China’s Narrative-Power Play in the Pandemic Era

The paper aims to address the development of China’s narrative power during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on world order. It argues that in the post-pandemic world, the emergence of the authoritarian sub-order would be prompted by China’s more proactive narrative power, given that the climate of opinion is ambiguous when faced with the uncertainty of the pandemic. (This does not imply the end of the existing liberal order; instead, it features the coexistence of both orders.) To understand how China’s narrative power has encouraged the emergence of the authoritarian sub-order to coexist in parallel with the dominant constitutional order, the article first reviews the existing literature concerning the changing world order. In this section, it also briefly defines and differentiates between the constitutional and authoritarian orders, what defines world order, and what distinguishes authoritarian from constitutional liberal order. Second it looks at the theoretical grounding. The nature, role and power of narratives are explored. Ideas about strategic narratives and the economics of attention are discussed. This theoretical background paves the way to examine China’s narrative power during a pandemic. Lastly, it switches to the Chinese perspective to address its support for the plurality of orders and its awareness of the strength of narrative in influencing dominant ideas. It looks at how China’s narrative power has been exercised from three perspectives (formation, projection and reception). Here, it mainly tackles how China has used its narrative power to spin the pandemic to its advantage in the reorganization of world order: improving its international image and advocating the authoritarian order as an alternative. China has been building its narrative along with its changing strategic diplomacy – from restrained and low-profile to proactive and assertive. In the conclusion, some reflections on China’s narrative power and the implications for world order are considered.

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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.

Chang, Y-Y. (2021) 'The Post-Pandemic World: Between Constitutionalized and Authoritarian Orders – China’s Narrative-Power Play in the Pandemic Era', Journal of Chinese Political Science 26.1: 27-65

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