The event commenced with a presentation by Stephen Clarke, Head of Quantitative Research to the Legatum Prosperity Index™, that showed the divide in political evaluation in some authoritarian states based on findings from the 2015 Index.

The presentation was followed by a panel discussion with Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London and Gary Rawnsley, Professor of Public Diplomacy at Aberystwyth University. They agreed that the difference between the subjective and objective assessments of governmental performance resulted from a mixture of factors including propaganda, suppression, and genuine local satisfaction with the improvements achieved in these countries. Specifically in China, the rising nationalist sentiment also plays a significant role in shoring up the public support for the regime.

Brown argued that although the Chinese authorities are trying to diversify their political legitimacy, economic growth is still the primary source of people’s loyalty to the regime. “Chinese people will keep on supporting the Communist Party as long as they believe tomorrow will be better than today.” Moreover, he revealed that memories of foreign colonisation are still running deep in China and prone to manipulation by the government, hence the importance of stability and development. The high approval rate in China may be the product of the fantastic (and well-publicised) social and economic progress achieved under the Communist Party, as well as an effective emotional campaign that portrays President Xi Jinping as a powerful leader who will guide the country to “restore its legitimate position in the world”.

On China’s political communication strategy, Rawnsley pointed out that although the Chinese government had spent enormous resources on overseas political communication trying to change the global conversation about China, so far most of these efforts had been relatively unsuccessful. He also predicted that as the Chinese are getting more access to alternative information on both foreign and domestic issues, a “credibility gap” will eventually emerge when the messages issued by the authorities collide with the reality.

The discussion was moderated by Alexandra Mousavizadeh, Director of the Prosperity Index at Legatum Institute.

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Interview with Kerry Brown​

Interview with Gary Rawnsley​

About the Speakers

Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King's College, London. Prior to this he was the Professor of Chinese Politics and Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. He led the Europe China Research and Advice Network (ECRAN) funded by the European Union  from 2011 to 2014. He is an Associate Fellow on the Asia Programme at Chatham House, London. His main interests are in the politics and society of modern China, in its international relations and its political economy. He worked in the China Section and then served as First Secretary, Beijing, from 2000 to 2003, and Head of the Indonesia East Timor Section at the FCO from 2003 to 2005.

Gary D. Rawnsley is Professor of Public Diplomacy in the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University. A specialist working at the intersection of international relations and international communications, he has published widely on propaganda, public diplomacy, soft power, cyberwarfare and the role of the media in democratisation. Gary works mainly, though not exclusively, on East Asia, especially China and Taiwan. He is also a contributor to the Legatum Institute’s Beyond Propaganda series.

Stephen Clarke is Head of Quantitative Research in the Prosperity Index team. He contributes to the production of the Legatum Prosperity Index™. His academic interests are international political economy, global regulatory policy, finance and US public policy. Before joining the Legatum Institute, Stephen spent a year completing an MSc in Public Policy with a dissertation examining internet censorship across different countries. He has also worked for the think tank Civitas, where he authored a book on the banking systems of Germany, Switzerland and the UK. Stephen holds an MSc in Public Policy from University College London and a BA in Modern History and Politics from the University of Oxford.​

Alexandra Mousavizadeh is Director of the Prosperity Index. Her role focuses on the development and expansion of the Legatum Institute’s flagship publication, the Legatum Prosperity Index™. Previously, Alexandra was CEO of ARC Ratings an Emerging Market based ratings agency spanning the sovereign, corporate and structured finance ratings segments. Prior to joining ARC Ratings she covered the Africa sovereign ratings portfolio at Moody’s Investors Service preceded by a role as Head of Country Risk Management for EMEA at Morgan Stanley in London. Formerly, she spent 10 years in the Sovereign Risk team at Moody’s based in New York covering Emerging and Frontier Markets. Other prior roles include Visiting Research Scholar at the US think tank, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. She is also a former council member at the Royal Africa Society and a member of the Advisory Board at the Royal Danish Embassy in London. She is an Economist from the University of Copenhagen.