Since the beginning of the 21st century, the rise of China has been one of the most frequently discussed topics in international relations (IR) circles. Because of this rise, Anglophone IR scholars have developed an increasing interest in Chinese perspectives on international relations. At the same time, IR scholars in China are dissatisfied with being consumers of knowledge rather than knowledge producers; many Chinese scholars have suggested there should be a Chinese school (CS) of IR, and attempts have been made over the past few decades to establish it. The call for a CS can be understood as an effort by Chinese scholars to establish their own subjectivity in international studies, a pursuit of an indigenous Chinese site of agency with regards to developing IR and IR theory. To demonstrate this, the historical development of international studies in China after the founding of the People’s Republic and how it led to Chinese IR scholars calling for the establishment of a CS in the 21st century is first introduced. Subsequently, the main branches and viewpoints of the CS will be illustrated—including Yan Xuetong’s moral realism, Zhao Tingyang’s conception of the Tianxia system, the Shanghai school’s symbiosis theory, and Qin Yaqing’s relational theory of world politics—before elucidating the main criticisms they have received from the Anglophone world of IR. Critics argue that the overall development of international studies in China is very much one of Chinese scholars replicating mainstream IR and its problems. This claim suggests that the CS movement is an imitation of modern Western discourse for political service rather than a genuine development of an indigenous discourse from Chinese tradition. This article, however, refutes these critics by suggesting that the development of international studies in China does have the potential to make an important contribution to non-Western, post-Western, and global quests in IR; attempts at creating CS contain an indigenous Chinese site of agency with regards to developing IR.
Işık Kuşçu Bonnenfant
Research on contemporary diasporas and their political mobilization strategies has proliferated. The literature differentiates between the mobilization strategies of stateless and state-linked diaspora. While earlier works have argued that stateless diasporas pursue more violent strategies with, as an end goal, secession, more recent studies have suggested that this is not always the case. Research on diaspora has also borrowed extensively from social movement theory. This has allowed researchers to focus on diaspora as a social group that can mobilize in convenient political opportunity structures with claim-making ability. A political opportunity structure is the combination of structural and contextual conditions that permits diaspora mobilization. Mobilizing structures and frames are the two other analytical tools of social movement theory that have previously inspired diaspora scholars. Mobilizing structures are formal and informal structures in which diasporas can organize collectively for a common cause. Various frames, such as human rights, enable a diaspora to make sense of certain events and conditions in its aim to mobilize members into action. Nearly 500,000 to 600,000 Uyghurs live as diaspora today; most of them left their homeland, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, because of increasingly repressive policies targeting the very core elements of their identity. Uyghurs are one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. Particularly after the end of the Cold War and the independence of the neighboring Central Asian republics, China perceived a threat of secession from the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Later, 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror instigated China to adopt a new rhetoric, one that focused on the “fight against terrorism” in its policies toward Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Riots and several terrorist incidents reinforced this discourse and legitimized China’s securitization of the Uyghur issue. Since 2010, China has increased surveillance activities in the region, arbitrarily detained up to a million people, and violated the basic rights of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Since the 1960s, the Uyghur diaspora has pursued various mobilization strategies, most of which are confined to nonviolent repertoires of action. Uyghurs abroad have utilized various mobilization structures and political opportunity structures and frames. The first-generation Uyghur diaspora contributed greatly to the construction of a national identity and history, and this was an alternative to China’s dominant narratives. The second generation has benefited from better political opportunity structures and managed to bring various Uyghur diaspora organizations under one umbrella, the World Uyghur Congress. The Uyghur diaspora vigorously continues its efforts to create awareness on the plight of its brethren in the homeland within a human rights–based frame using moderate strategies of action. The Uyghur diaspora leadership has become a legitimate transnational actor, one that is now taken quite seriously by various states and international organizations.
Xiang Li, Mengqi Shao, and May Tan-Mullins
President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI一带一路) in 2013. The BRI, which will pass through over 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, aims at improving and creating new trading routes and investment opportunities. It consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI), and is a continuation of China’s “opening up” policy. It comprises six overland and one maritime economic cooperation corridors, supporting the expansion of Chinese enterprises abroad to facilitate industrial upgrading at home, paving the way for Chinese outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) and trade abroad, and advancing the internationalization of the Chinese currency. In addition, the project is welcomed by recipient countries due to their need for infrastructure investment. China remains the biggest player in the initiation and implementation of BRI projects. As such, the impact of Chinese projects on the economic, political, cultural, and environmental fabric of host countries will likely be dramatic, especially since many BRI projects are large-scale infrastructure projects that cut across different regions and states. The COVID-19 pandemic further implicated the progress of BRI projects in these areas.
Shirley V. Scott and Orli Zahava
The most fundamental characteristic of a developing state is that its income, usually calculated as gross national product (GNP) per capita, is relatively low in comparison with that of an industrial country. A second characteristic shared by most developing countries is that they are former colonies. In recognition of the diversity amongst developing countries, they are sometimes divided into subgroups. The term “Least Developed Country” is used to refer to some 50 of the most vulnerable states, whose economies are vastly smaller than those of China, India, Brazil, or Mexico. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) is a group of states with emerging economies whose share of world trade, investment, and foreign currency reserve is projected to continue to grow. AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States, is a 44-member coalition that functions as a negotiating voice for small island developing states (SIDS) within the United Nations system. The engagement of developing countries with international law typically comes in four aspects: the colonial past and contemporary continuities in international legal approaches and categories, attempts by newly independent Third World states to transform international law through the introduction of specific new legal principles, the effect of the increasing gap between the emerging economies of certain developing countries and the most vulnerable developing states, and whether structural impediments remain to the equitable participation of developing countries in international law.
Eunice Y. Kang, Hyung-Gu Lynn, and Apichai W. Shipper
East Asian countries have varying levels of ethnic homogeneity. North and South Korea have long been considered among the most ethnically homogeneous nation-states in the world. Yet, since the mid-1990s, the amount of immigration to the country as well as transnational marriages have transformed South Korea into a multiethnic state. The Japanese also view themselves as a racially distinct and homogeneous people, despite the historical presence of foreigners and ethnic minorities. China is composed of a patchwork of ethnicities with around 55 state-recognized minority groups. However, according to the 2010 census, minorities accounted for only 8.49% of the overall population or 114 million people. Despite different levels of ethnic homogeneity, China, Korea, and Japan are witnessing a rise in international (and internal) migration, which started in the late 20th century and has continued into the early 21st century. The increase of foreign migrant workers and spouses has challenged the dominant perceptions of ethnic homogeneity in Korea and Japan, while further strengthening the bonds of ethnic heterogeneity in China. These changes have not only forced a reshaping of the notions of identity and citizenship, but have also helped fuel the rise of various “reactive” forms of neo-nationalism, such as “state nationalism,” “ethnic nationalism,” and “cultural nationalism,” that attempt to fortify or recuperate ethnic or race-based definitions of national identity.
Since their independence from colonial rule, the three Maghreb states (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) have interacted with foreign powers bilaterally rather than as an integrated region. Despite the foundation of the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) in 1989, the Maghreb countries have pursued discrete foreign policies that reflected the nature of their anticolonial struggle and the ideological choices that they made following, or even prior to, their independence. While Algeria chose nonalignment as the foundation of its foreign policy, Morocco and Tunisia remained attached to the West despite proclaiming attachment to nonalignment. In the decade from 2010 to 2020, the Maghreb states have faced numerous political and socioeconomic challenges which created complicated geopolitical constraints. Thus, even if they wished to drastically reduce their dependency, primarily on the European Union (EU), their “pressing financial constraints and security imperatives in their borderlands ultimately prevented any change of direction or transgression of the existing patterns of their foreign policies,” for “structure prevailed over agency.” Nonetheless, the region is gradually moving away from Europe and the United States in some areas. At the same time, the 2019 pandemic and other constraints have created new geopolitical dynamics that were already in the making, for outside powers had already shown increased interest in the region. While the United States (under President Trump) neglected the Maghreb until September 2020, Russia, China, the Gulf countries, and Turkey have increased their presence. With the extension of the Belt and Road Initiative to the Mediterranean, China has increased its economic presence and extended its Maritime Silk Road, which requires access to ports. Russia has made its return in search for opportunities, including access to ports, which will position it close to NATO’s southern flank. The competition among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states (e.g., Qatar versus the UAE), on the one hand, and the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and UAE, Turkey, and Israel (since normalization with Morocco), on the other, have spilled over onto the Maghreb. Thus, domestic challenges and evolving geopolitical dynamics have compelled the Maghreb regimes to seek the support of outside powers to offset their internal instability and to compete with one another (Algeria versus Morocco).
Mariya Y. Omelicheva and John James Kennedy
After years of communism and central planning, Russia and China embarked on broad transformations from planned to market economy and limited political liberalization reforms. Chinese reforms commenced in 1978, while those in the Soviet Union started in 1991. The two countries took contrasting paths to economic reform, and their experiences during economic transition have been viewed as polar opposites. The reform experiences of Russia and China sparked intense academic debates over a variety of issues surrounding transition from communism to market economy. The primary source of scholarly disagreement is whether the pace, the sequence, or country-specific initial conditions determines the success of economic and political reforms. The debates revolved around questions such as whether there is a relationship between economic processes and political reforms in the transitional states, or whether economic liberalization should pave the way for political liberalization. Two dominant approaches to transition from socialism to capitalism advanced in the literature are “shock therapy” and gradualism; the former was adopted by the Russians and the latter by the Chinese. Several lessons can be learned from the Russian and Chinese transition, such as the impact of structural forces on the leadership’s policy preferences and the importance of tenable development policies to ensure the success of economic reforms. Notwithstanding these lessons, there remain a number of questions that deserve further investigation, mainly in terms of the role of China and Russia in world politics.