Pols396 readings week 3 part 3 the Chinese conception of National Interests in International Relations.docx
Pols396 readings week 3 part 3 (the Chinese conception of National Interests in International Relations)
o China criticized for its narrow minded, backwards view especially on issues concerning
human rights and irredentist claims.
o Renewed emphasis on the 5 principles of peaceful co-existence.
1) mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty
2) mutual non-aggression
3) mutual non-interference in internal affairs
4) equality and mutual benefit
5) peaceful co-existence
These five principles constitute the basis for an anarchy of mutual
recognition and therefore tend to promote egoistic over collective
conceptions of interest
In the Chinese worldview, the international system consists essentially of atomistic nation-states
locked in a perpetual struggle for power.
o China’s foreign policy is based on an outmoded Westphalian notion of sovereignty in a
world where state sovereignty is being eroded and the traditional notion of national
interests is under increasing challenge, thanks to dense interdependence.
Chinese definition of national interests is not a fixed and immutable attribute, rather it is
o It is argued that the Chinese conception of national interests should not be considered
in terms of two mutually exclusive categories-realpolitik values and liberal values.
Instead it should be understood in terms of a spectrum.
Chinese realists subscribe to the state centric notion. Their discourse on the world is influenced
by the historical memory of one thousand years of sufferings and humiliations at the hands of
western Powers and Japan, which they hold as the collective experience of the Chinese nation.
o They view the world because of this as an arena of interactions between sovereign
states engaged in merciless competition.
o View transnational and multilateral networks through a state centric prism, only
focusing on how China could take advantage of these new “external environments” to
protect and maximize its national interests.
During the Maoist era
o Chinese theory on national interest was based on the Marxist class analysis which posits
that since the state is a tool of the ruling class then national interest is naturally the
interests of the ruling class.
Post Maoist era
o The invoking of national interest (instead of class interest) is a result against the
revolutionary diplomacy and what the Chinese authors call the ideologization besetting
Chinese foreign policy especially in the 1959s.
Most Chinese authors non differentiate between two attributes of national interest
o 1)representing the ruling class o 2) One representing the nation
For Yan Xuetong the confusion of national interests with state interests may have arisen for the
fact that in the Chinese language both the nation and the state are often understood to refer to
the same thing. He distinguishes the states interest in domestic from its interest in international
For Chinese authors and scholars national interests are the embodiment of the nation as a
whole and their pursuit is the natural and inalienable right of the nation state.
Chinese power theory
Chinese realists also see the world in terms of power politics
o The criteria for judging national interests include the international environment,
national capabilities, technological development, and the subjective assessment of
these 3 factors.
o Differ from classical realists in the West in terms