China's Growing Discourse Power and Resurgent Authoritarianism

18 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2022

See all articles by David L. Sloss

David L. Sloss

Santa Clara University - School of Law

Date Written: August 27, 2022


The Chinese term huayuquan is translated as “discourse power.” Discourse power is the “national capability to influence global values, governance, and even day-to-day discussions on the world stage.” A large body of anecdotal evidence suggests that China’s discourse power has grown substantially over the past ten or fifteen years. Moreover, there are reasons to believe that the growth in Chinese discourse power may be correlated with another important trend in international affairs: the increasing autocratization of formerly democratic states.

Part One presents data on the recent rise of autocracy and the corresponding decline of democracy in world affairs. Assuming that the United States is engaged in a “new Cold War” with China, it is clearly in the United States’ interest to halt or even reverse the trends of rising autocracy and democratic decline. Part One explains why discourse power is likely to be an important tool in any serious, sustained U.S. effort to combat increasing autocratization.

Part Two presents a range of anecdotal evidence documenting the growth of Chinese discourse power since about 2009. Where possible, I present some comparative data about U.S. discourse power to provide important context. Part Three sketches the outlines of a future research program that could provide better information about the scope and effects of Chinese discourse power. Part Three also recommends a few specific, concrete policy solutions that can and should be implemented now, without waiting for the results of that research.

Keywords: China, discourse power, autocratization, democratic decline, new Cold War

Suggested Citation

Sloss, David L., China's Growing Discourse Power and Resurgent Authoritarianism (August 27, 2022). Forthcoming, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 55, 2023, Santa Clara Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4202564, Available at SSRN: or

David L. Sloss (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

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