The Power to Change Minds? China's rise and ideational alternatives

There seems to be a growing consensus that previous assumptions about the long term consequences of China’s rise have turned out to be misplaced. Rather than China becoming ‘socialised’ into the liberal global order (and democratising at home), a China challenge to that order is instead being identified. This is seen not just as a challenge to the distribution of power within the current system, but to some of the fundamental norms and principles that underpin it, as well as to the theories and concepts that are used to try to understand it and predict future behaviour.  Of course, some always expected it to be this way; however, others now see a Chinese ability and willingness to promote alternatives that they didn’t envisage even a decade ago.
This presentation explores how what were originally designed as defensive norms and theories for China itself have transformed into putative platforms that might have salience and utility for others outside China. The paper suggests that the Chinese position may better be understood as a critique of universalism rather than the basis of an alternative world order. It also asks whether there is more than just an aspirational dimension to new Chinese thinking on international relations built on a form of “Occidentalism”, or if we can identify a real and distinct Chinese approach to both its own international relations and the nature of the world order itself.