2018 Report: China in/and the Global South

Center for Emerging Worlds Report:


China and/in the Global South: The Central Role of Gender and Sexuality



As the world’s second largest economy, China is playing an increasingly robust role on many global issues, from economics and trade, peace and security, climate change, and social development. In this past year alone China hosted the BRICS summit, and the Belt and Road Forum. President Xi Jinping’s World Social Forum speech last year made clear that China is demonstrating leadership in the global south. At the 2015 UN General Assembly meeting, President Xi pledge US$ 2 billion to establish a fund for south-south cooperation to assist developing countries. 

With China’s rise as a major global player, there has also arisen increased discussion about the importance of focusing on the gender and sexuality impacts of China’s infrastructure development, trade and multilateral investments with countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. What will China’s increased presence in the Global South mean for gender relations and sexuality across these regions? Will China try to intervene in pressing for gender equality or will their policies and investment strategies fail to address gender, thereby actually having an inadvertent impact? Will China support international efforts to promote LGBT rights or will they respond to civil society efforts both within China and in the global south to do so? Will China replicate past colonial powers, with their civilizing missions? Or will China try to re-create a Bandung-style set of alliances that eschew colonial hierarchies?



In Fall 2017, the Center for Emerging Worlds, together with the Institute for Sexuality and Gender, Renmin University, convened a second workshop in Beijing, China to discuss the gender and sexual dimensions of China’s growing presence in the Global South.

Fifty participants – including activists and academics from China, Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and USA – examined various dimensions of China’s increased presence in the Global South, including China’s growing foreign aid, new development and investment banks, China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the role of Chinese civil society in shaping China’s role abroad, and Chinese and international NGOs. The workshop created a dialogue between those in China who work on the international dimensions of economic and social issues and those who have a great deal of knowledge about gender and sexual politics, either in their own country or transnationally.



  • Thus far, China has taken some steps to support gender equity in terms of gender and development while failing to support sexual rights, except in relation to reproductive health. For example, in a meeting China co-hosted with UN Women to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the UN Women’s Conference, held in Beijing, President Xi Jinping pledged US$10 million to UN Women for their work on peace and development. But China voted against establishing the UN Human Rights Council post of independent monitor of LGBT rights, and supported the effort by Russia, Middle East and African nations to get the UN General Assembly to postpone the establishment of this post.
  • Civil society groups in China and across the Global South have an important role to play in addressing the gaps in China’s policies with regard to gender and sexual rights. It was Chinese LGBT groups who pressed the UN even to consider the post for monitoring LGBT rights.
  • The impacts on gender relations and sexuality can be found in projects that both explicitly and implicitly address these questions, such as security regimes, mega-infrastructure projects, and investment banks.
  • The growing discussion in the Global South about a new hegemony, the Beijing Consensus, replacing the Washington Consensus, nonetheless demonstrates the potential at this early stage to press China to adopt policies promoting progressive gender and sexual views.
  • China’s recent cultural productions, including film and new media, have increasingly depicted China’s interactions with various regions of the Global South. It is important to pay attention to these cultural productions for their use of gendered and sexualized representations to develop their message.



Participants in our workshops on gender and sexuality in China’s presence in the global south have recently begun a cultural commentary series; the first is on Wolf Warrior II (in Chinese athttp://routerjcs.nctu.edu.tw/router; coming soon in English at u.osu.edu/mclc/). Our next set of commentaries will be on films from Latin America that address China in Latin America.

Another concrete action to press for more attention to gender and sexuality is to attend the civil society planning sessions in May in Johannesburg in preparation for the next BRICS meeting there in September. Gender and development have dropped out of the BRICS discussions. The larger the collective presence in May, the more possible impact on BRICS future direction.

The Center for Emerging Worlds will continue this conversation through future publications and posts. Follow our work:


Website: http://emergingworlds.ucsc.edu/