China's International Relations in the 21st Century: Dynamics of Paradigm Shifts

By Zhang, Yongjin | The China Journal, July 2004 | Go to article overview

China's International Relations in the 21st Century: Dynamics of Paradigm Shifts


Zhang, Yongjin, The China Journal


China's International Relations in the 21st Century: Dynamics of Paradigm Shifts, edited by Weixing Hu, Gerald Chan and Daojiong Zha. Lanham: University Press of America, 2000. xii + 231 pp. US$56.00 (hardcover), US$36.50 (paperback).

Why does China behave as it does in international relations? How can we explain the erratic nature of Chinese foreign policy? What are the dynamics that shape and constrain China's international behavior? These are questions that have haunted China scholars and international relations (IR) specialists alike for decades. With the rise of China and its ongoing economic, social and political transformations, many have now argued that understanding China better is key to the future of the emerging regional and global order. The papers in this volume are a timely contribution to addressing these important questions. The approaches and perspectives are, however, distinctively different. As the three editors make clear in the introductory chapter, the focus is to "analyze Chinese scholars' understanding and conceptualization of international relations as a way to shed light on the paradigm shifts in Chinese foreign policy" (p. 5). Not specific issues, but the "conceptual sources" of Chinese international behavior and projected dynamics, are explored.

What puts all of the contributors in an advantageous position, as noted by the editors, is that they are all "Chinese scholars who had their education and postgraduate training in the social sciences in both China and the West" (p. 8). This common identity, according to the editors, enables them to provide balanced insider-outsider perspectives on Chinese international relations.

The seven chapters present different theoretical stances. There is clearly a constructivist bent in three of them, which trace the "ideational sources" of Chinese foreign policy. Yong Deng's chapter examines aspects of China's changing identity in world politics and argues why and how such identity continues to marginalize China in the international system. His argument that China as a "non-Weberian state" is precluded from joining the great power club because it lacks normative power is particularly interesting and instructive. In Chapter 4, Hongying Wang uses China's changing perceptions of and participation in regional multilateral economic and security institutions as examples to explore China's socialization into international society. Her analysis is rigorous, but her conclusion is ambivalent. If China's limited socialization so far does not lend full empirical support to constructivist theorization of socialization, where would this socialization lead? Finally, Qingxin Wang's chapter explores how cultural norms condition the conduct of Chinese foreign policy. The dominant cultural norms, Wang argues, are embedded in Chinese classical schools of thought in toto, or in other words in Chinese tradition, not just in specific classical military texts of a particular period (countering lain Johnston). Chinese leaders' socialization (particularly that of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai) into these dominant cultural norms provides additional explanations, so far neglected, of Chinese foreign-policy behavior. …

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