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Charter Cities Could Help America Counter Chinese Soft Power, Says Lincoln Network Panelist

Jericho Casper

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Screenshot of Mark Lutter in a Lincoln Network webinar on Tuesday

July 22, 2020 — The coronavirus pandemic has challenged the existing global order, with some believing that the responses of Western nations have left their constituents distracted.

In a recent op-ed, author Mark Lutter, founder and executive director of Charter Cities, argued that the Chinese government was exploiting the chaos brought about by COVID-19 to advance its global ambitions.

After conquering the coronavirus at home, China is using the global, political and economic disruption of the pandemic to aggressively advance long term geo-political interests, Lutter wrote.

One way in which China is furthering soft power is through the Belt and Road Initiative, a global infrastructure development strategy adopted in 2013, Lutter said in a Lincoln Network webinar Tuesday.

As part of the initiative, China is investing in infrastructure in developing nations across the globe, funding the development of modernized ports, rail systems and airports.

In exchange for building infrastructure, Chinese businesses secure access to natural resources and reach potential markets for goods.

China is currently offering a better model for development than the United States, Lutter claimed.

Chinese investment is extremely attractive to developing nations, Lutter said, as these nations have watched Chinese governance lead to 40 years of unprecedented growth within the country.

Luther said that in order to counter China’s increasing presence on the world stage, the U.S. needs a strategic vision to promote development and influence.

He suggested that one tool the U.S. can utilize in its attempt to exert influence are charter cities.

Charter cities, like Singapore, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Dubai, are cities granted special jurisdiction to create new governance systems.

Luther found that the creation of charter cities allows cities to achieve prosperity more quickly, by allowing city officials to adopt the most competitive practices in commercial regulation.

“They combine the governance reforms necessary to attract foreign investment, encourage job creation and generate economic growth with the infrastructure that is needed to support growth over the long run,” Luther said.

Charter cities are a tool for economic development and global influence, he added, which can also help demonstrate that civil liberties and economic development are not mutually exclusive.

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