Besides the Realists, who is shaping China’s foreign policy?

The Wall Street Journal characterizes China’s recent assertiveness in the region as “a new state of mind,” citing the recent island dispute with Japan, China’s backing of North Korea in the Cheonan incident, and aggressive behaviors in the South China Sea.  The WSJ writes in its Oct. 1 editorial:

Ever since Deng Xiaoping dumped the Marxist half of Marxism-Leninism some 30 years ago, the Chinese regime has depended on the twin pillars of economic growth and nationalism for its legitimacy. Usually the world sees more of the former than the latter. Perhaps not anymore.

As social pressures build within China, some in the leadership may be falling back on one of their core claims to legitimacy—that only the Communist Party can restore China’s dignity after a “century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers.

Indeed, there are reasons to be concerned about rising Chinese nationalism and its implications for China foreign policy behaviors. However, it is just one of many dimensions of the domestic debates in China that are shaping the country’s view of itself in the world. Professors David Shambaugh and Ren Xiao of the Rising Powers Initiative have identified a range of seven schools of thought within China: Nativists, Realists, Major Powers, Asia First, Global South, Selective Multi-lateralists and Globalists.

China’s international relations debates tend to revolve around the characteristics of the international system and China’s identity within that system. Read more of this post

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