Being Uniquely Universal: Building Chinese International Relations Theory

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In this paper I address the question of how Chinese scholars participate in scientific knowledge production by appropriating Western IR theories, primarily by examining interactions between North American theories that claim universality and China-specific IR efforts. Drawing on post-Mao era publications and books, I discuss how increasingly independent Chinese IR scholars are portraying their country's rising status in international politics and identifying China's national interests, while still emphasizing socialist concepts such as anti-hegemonism. The result is a form of Chinese IR scholarship that combines Western IR language with a worldview that emphasizes a modern China within the context of traditional socialist foreign policy norms. I will argue that Chinese scholarly discussions about IR theory building reflect efforts to present 'their rising China' (as individually perceived) in the study, research, and development of IR theory in response to the appearance of modern IR methods that require new definitions and new roles for old socialist forms. In this context, identity concerns are more important than the actual theories being established or appropriated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-534
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number81
Publication statusPublished - 2013 May

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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