A BALANCING ACT? A study on Sweden’s ambivalence in responding to pressure from the Chinese embassy

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Statsvetenskapliga institutionen

Abstract: Ever since Sweden was the first Western democracy to officially recognise the People’s Republic of China shortly after its establishment in 1949, the two states have enjoyed decades of successful and beneficial bilateral cooperation. However, the literature states that maintaining bilateral cooperation with a growing authoritarian great power has generated an ambivalence from Sweden on sensitive issues regarding China, in order to not jeopardize domestic economic interests. This has been brought to a head, when the Chinese embassy in Stockholm has exerted pressure on independent journalists, in order to influence their reporting of China. The overall purpose of this study is to gain a deeper and further understanding of how power asymmetry between Sweden and China can affect how the case of the Chinese embassy exerting pressure on journalists will be managed from a national level. Part of the purpose is also to gain and provide insights and knowledge of the Chinese pressure from the perspective of Swedish journalists. By interviewing journalists and researchers, and applying a theoretical framework of primarily sharp, soft power and hard power and interdependence, the findings of the study show that journalists have increased their reporting of China as a response to the pressure and that they perceive measures to counter the pressure on an EU-level as essential. The findings also show that Sweden is likely to continue a pragmatic approach in dealing with the embassy’s pressure, which ultimately means trying balance between upholding internal democratic values while maintaining good economic relations.

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