SOAS University of London

SOAS China Institute

The Struggle for Democracy in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong: Sharp Power and its Discontents

IMG - Andreas Fulda Book Cover
Dr Andreas Fulda (Assistant Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham)

Date: 21 October 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 21 October 2019Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G3

Type of Event: Seminar

Registration is closed as this event is full.


The key question at the heart of this talk is to what extent political activists in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong have made progress in their quest to liberalise and democratise their polities.

In his new book Andreas Fulda adopts a historical perspective and compares and contrasts political development in the three regions from the early 1970s—the election-driven liberalisation in Taiwan from 1969, the Democracy Wall Movement in mainland China in 1978, and the top-down political reforms of Governor Patten in Hong Kong after 1992—until the present day, when Hong Kong is rarely out of the news. 

More specifically, Fulda sets out the different strategies and tactics political activists have taken, assesses the lessons activists have learned from both successes and failures and considers how these experiences have informed their struggles for democracy.

Importantly, Fulda demonstrates that at the same time, throughout the period and earlier, the Chinese Communist Party has been making use of “sharp power”—penetrating the political and information environments in Western democracies to manipulate debate and suppress dissenters living both inside and outside China—in order to strengthen its domestic position. 

He discusses the nature of this sharp power, explores the rise of the security state within mainland China and examines the effectiveness of the approach, arguing that in Taiwan and Hong Kong the approach has been counterproductive, with civil society, campaigns for greater democracy and the flourishing of religion in part stimulated by the Chinese Communist Party’s sharp power practices.


Dr Andreas Fulda has specialized in the fields of democratization studies; philanthropy and civil society; citizen diplomacy; and EU-China relations. In addition to his advocacy for liberalization and democratization in mainland China Dr Fulda has exercised intellectual leadership by advocating for a more critical, creative and constructive European China engagement. His research bridges theory and practice; engages wider groups and communities in policy, industry, practice and public; involves academics, civil society practitioners and policy makers; and aims to influence European China policy. Dr Fulda frequently comments on current Chinese affairs in the media. Between 2015 and 2019 he made twenty-three media appearances on Sky News, France 24, BBC Radio, Al Jazeera, and TRT respectively. He has written opinion-editorials for the The Guardian, The Independent, The Conversation, South China Morning Post, and China Daily.

Organiser: SOAS China Institute

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