Thinking bilaterally, acting unilaterally: Placing China’s institutional style in relational international relations

Chih Yu Shih, Hung Jen Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The authors offer a typology in support of a connection between Chinese international relations (IR) and relational IR. Specifically, a comparison scheme compatible with a sense of “self-restraint” shared by both IR types is presented for analysing the Chinese institutional style of uni-bilateralism. While most of today’s relational turn discussions refer to self-restraint in multilateral contexts, the concept is mostly situated in bilateral contexts outside of Western liberal societies. China is a prominent example of how unilateral methods are being used to achieve bilateral relationality. However, China’s bilateral sensibilities are very much contradicted by unilateral methods. At times, China’s unilateral imposition of its own version of concession on the other party to enact its bilateral role could generate anxieties, uncertainties and potential misunderstanding rather than credibility. Distinguishing between ideal states and methods for achieving those ideal states can provide a more sophisticated understanding. Acknowledging the distinctions also enhances our understanding that China’s confrontations with other states, especially the United States, do not necessarily come from discrepancies between ideal states, but instead from the use of unilateral methods the two actors pursue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-172
Number of pages22
JournalChina: An International Journal
Volume17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics

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