Around the world, governments from Poland to Myanmar are stoking ethnonationalist sentiment to consolidate support around otherwise divisive political agendas. For smaller or more homogenous countries, this has typically taken the form of inward-looking domestic policy shifts, such as the immigration restrictions and economic protectionism resurgent in Viktor Orban’s Hungary. But for larger or more economically powerful states, ethnonationalist sentiment tends to facilitate a belligerent foreign policy as well. History is replete with the ominous consequences of ethnonationalism spilling out from large countries onto the world stage—and there are signs that the world’s most populous country, China, could become the latest example.
For larger powers, a sizable or high-status ethnic diaspora can be a tempting target to co-opt in the name of an ethnonationalist foreign policy. States that bind their legitimacy to ethnic identity often make special efforts to reaffirm that identity among co-ethnics abroad, expanding the state’s power and reach beyond geographic borders in doing so. Perhaps consequently, these states have sometimes pursued interventionist foreign policies to “protect” their people abroad.
Read the full op-ed in Foreign Affairs.
More from CNAS
CommentarySharper: Global Coronavirus Response
As regions across the United States enforce states of emergency and a growing list of countries restrict travel, close schools, and quarantine citizens, the economic and human...
By Chris Estep & Cole Stevens
PodcastChina, Europe, and COVID-19 with CNAS’s Ashley Feng and Kristine Lee
Ashley Feng and Kristine Lee join Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Jim Townsend to explain China’s response to COVID-19 on the latest episode of Brussels Sprouts. Feng is a Research ...
By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Jim Townsend, Kristine Lee & Ashley Feng
CommentaryCan the G7 Stop the Coronavirus?
The world’s leading governments are throwing all they have into the coronavirus fight. Recent days have seen dramatic social distancing requirements, novel border controls, ma...
By Gary Edson & Richard Fontaine
CommentaryVirus Competition Is Wrecking China-U.S. Cooperation Hopes
As Washington shifted its worldview over the last several years to a sharp focus on China competition, even the most claw-bearing hawks generally left open the possibility of ...
By Richard Fontaine