The Rise of Populism and Implications for China

A China in the World Podcast

The rise of populism in Europe and the United States has had a pronounced impact on domestic politics and foreign policy, as seen in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In this podcast, Paul Haenle sat down with Thomas Carothers, Senior Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to discuss the rise of populist and anti-establishment movements and their implications for China.

Carothers defines populism as a political movement rooted in the idea of outsiders challenging established norms. People are often attracted to populism out of frustration, anger, and fear about economic stagnation and lack of opportunity. Populist leaders have benefited from social media and the Internet, Carothers says, which has allowed them to connect directly with their followers. Populist movements in the West have recently contributed to changes in immigration policy and to public opinion on the benefits of economic and financial systems. While the roots of populism in the United States and Europe are similar, Carothers argued, populist movements in the United States are developing within the existing two-party system rather than from outside, as in Europe. In China, Carothers says, leaders are unsettled by the nationalist and anti-globalization sentiments that often accompany populist movements and run counter to China’s interests. Beijing has also had to adapt its policies to the European Union’s new politics. For now, however, Carothers says China has mostly avoided criticism from populist leaders who see the country as a willing partner and leverage against the establishment.