International Relations with Chinese Characteristics

MERICS Research Associate Sabine Mokry produced a summary overview last year of specifically Chinese concepts of International Relations (IR)/world order that are currently being discussed and espoused by leading Chinese political scientists.

A few interesting points and questions raised by this research:

  • Current world order is frequently portrayed as “outdated” and “dysfunctional” (Mokry, 6).
  • The notion of China’s future role as a global leader is widespread in the literature.
  • Below are some concepts that are being promoted as important tenets of this dawning leadership role:

– Community of shared destiny for mankind (人类命运共同体);

– Relational theory of international politics (国际政治关系理论);

– Humane authority (王权);

– Cosmopolitanism (世界主义);

– Civilizational state (文明型国家).


  • Some ideas like peaceful rise (中国和平崛起) have been developed by scholars working within party organs. This leads me to ask to what extent then, if at all, the IR discipline in China can be seen as different from party doctrine?
  • Most of the terminology above requires further clarification regarding real-world application.
  • Despite their prominence in domestic academic discourse and Chinese foreign policy circles, these concepts have as of yet received insufficient attention by non-Chinese researchers and officials.

I generally concur with Mokry’s recommendation for more mutual exchanges on these topics because:

  1. Talking about one another instead of with each other about how the international system should be governed does not do the study of International Relations any favor.
  2. There may be potential for more future conflict if the frequently invoked multipolar order is marked by further polarization of belief systems and Weltanschauungen.

Having said that, I will try to shed additional light on some of the key terms highlighted by Mokry in subsequent posts.


Image: Unsplash


Mokry, Sabine. “Decoding Chinese Concepts for the Global Order.” China Monitor (October 2018): 1-11.

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