After suffering pushback at home and abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has resumed its course to achieve key Chinese Communist Party goals by retaining the backing of the elites that count, both within China and overseas.

This paper traces the elitist evolution of the Party under leader Xi Jinping, before examining the gap between Party elites and the masses. The author then outlines how the PRC courts foreign elites, arguing that many Australian corporate, university, state and local government elites are effectively captured by such courting, whilst the general public is becoming ever more critical of the party-state. The voices urging Canberra to concede in any debate with the PRC have become predictable and repetitive, with a diminished capacity to influence policy.

But this could change, as the PRC emerges from the pandemic and seeks to extend its international influence. What governments and other institutions in Australia can do in response will thus be key questions for the remainder of the 2020s.

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CIS Occasional Paper 177