A Chinese Scholar's View on the Arab Awakening

In the US, China’s growing role in Africa is the subject of increased international attention and in some cases, concern. IDN is a collaborating partner with The Carter Center’s China-Africa Project. The objective of the China-Africa Project is to advance global understanding of China’s impact on Africa. After attending the project’s inaugural roundtable discussion in Beijing in December 2011, IDN director Sita Ranchod-Nilsson visited the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) to explore areas of mutual interest and opportunities for collaboration during the first meeting of The Carter Center’s China-Africa Initiative. Ten months later, CICIR sent Baizhi Liao, assistant director of the Institute for West Asian and African Studies, to Emory to be IDN’s visiting scholar.

CICIR is one of the most important think tanks reporting to the government. Its research work includes global strategic, political, economic and security studies; country and regional studies, and China’s foreign relations. Liao focuses on the Middle East and North Africa. During his tenure with CICIR, Liao has visited Tunisia, Sudan, Algeria, and Egypt and has written numerous reports on policy issues in the region. Research findings are either submitted to relevant government departments as reports or published in academic journals. CICIR also undertakes specially commissioned research projects and cooperates with its counterparts in China and abroad on issues of common concern.

In addition to serving as assistant director, Liao was a PhD candidate at CICIR. As IDN’s visiting scholar, Liao conducted research for his dissertation during his stay at Emory. His dissertation focused on the Muslim Brotherhood and its rise in Egypt after the Arab Awakening. He examined “political Islam” in the region and explored “Islamic democracy” – a concept that the Muslim Brotherhood encourages legal participation in the political system. More specifically, Liao tried to gauge if the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood would promote long-term Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt or if it was just a short-term reaction to the situation in the region. Liao spent many days researching and writing in the library and also met with faculty members and Carter Center China Program staff. In addition, Liao candidly discussed US and Chinese policies towards the Middle East and North Africa during a public talk on campus. Liao noted that his time at IDN was productive and a great learning experience.

After his return to China in late March 2013, Liao presented his dissertation, received his PhD, and continues to work for CICIR. Congratulations to Dr. Liao on all of his hard work! IDN looks forward to hosting more CICIR scholars in the future.

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