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  • Chinese Politics and International Relations: Innovation and Invention ed. by Nicola Horsburgh, Astrid Nordin and Shaun Breslin
  • Kai Chen
Chinese Politics and International Relations: Innovation and Invention, edited by Nicola Horsburgh, Astrid Nordin and Shaun Breslin. London: Routledge, 2014. 224 pp. US$ 100.38 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9780415838436.

China’s socialization into the world has become a critical topic in the academia. Chinese Politics and International Relations overviews and updates China’s innovations (e.g., policy innovation and practical innovation) at both domestic and international levels. It is noteworthy that the contributors draw lessons from Alastair Iain Johnston’s analytic framework of three micro-processes (i.e., mimicking, persuasion and social influence), and highlight that “innovation” should be a context- sensitive variable to explain China’s socialization into the world.

This is an excellent collection of interdisciplinary scholarship, which offers three striking contributions to the literature of China’s socialization into the world at very least. First, at the level of international relations, this volume reveals the serious challenges facing Chinese school of International Relations. Second, at the level of domestic politics, this volume goes into great empirical depth on China’s censorship at macro-, mid-, and micro-levels. Third, it provides adequate proof of the conclusion that China’s innovations “build(s) on change to something already existing, but simultaneously indicate(s) a significant newness and particularity” (p. 6).

The book begins with an introduction, followed by seven chapters. Part I (Chapters 1-2) explores the history of China’s innovations at the international level since the independence in 1949. In Chapter 1, Nicola Horsburgh re-examines China’s nuclear policy since the 1980s. Horsburgh finds the innovative characteristics in China’s nuclear policy, particularly the doctrine of “minimalism”, which demonstrates that nuclear deterrence could exist at “asymmetric, low numbers and under a high degree of vulnerability” (p. 39).

Chapter 2 by Ward Warmerdam focuses on the evolution of China’s innovations in foreign aid policy (from 1950 to 2011). In the words of Warmerdam, though the approach of “three micro-processes” developed by Johnston can partly explain China’s aid policy practice in history, innovation--“a fourth process”, would be “needed to provide a more comprehensive understanding and policy response” (p. 56).

The following part (Chapters 3-4) turns to observe the Chinese school of International Relations, which theorizes international relations in China’s context. Chapter 3 by Linsay Cunningham-Cross reminds [End Page 177] readers that it’s hard for Chinese school of International Relations to challenge the main findings of the Western theories (e.g., neo-realist and neo-liberal), because many Chinese scholars are still re-producing the western theories, hypotheses, or findings. In some cases, the so-called theoretical innovations of the Chinese school are to examine whether Chinese ancient thoughts or texts agree with the Western understanding of international relations.

Chapter 4 by Ras Tind Nielsen and Peter Marcus Kristensen illustrates a context-sensitive scenario, in which the Chinese school of International Relations runs the risk of doing “something the Westerners do not understand” (p. 111). Unfortunately, it would not exclude the possibility that the Chinese school might become “a Chinese school for Chinese researchers” (p. 112), which “engages critically with existing perspectives, rather than inventing something radically new” (p. 99).

Part III (Chapters 5-6) analyzes China’s innovations in strengthening its soft power. Chapter 5 by Falk Hartig addresses an innovative way of “joint venture between Chinese and international partners” (p. 117), through which China plays more active role in cultural diplomacy (e.g., Confucius Institutes) around the world. In the case of Guangzhou City, Chapter 6 by Annukka Kinnari explains how a Chinese city succeeded in prompting itself as an international metropolis through large-scale image projects. However, Kinnari’s finding also shows that some small-scale image projects (e.g., Bus Rapid Transit system) “do not necessarily have any impact on the city’s international image” (p. 164), though they bring more substantial benefits to most residents of Guangzhou City.

The final part (Chapter 7 by Astrid Nordin) overviews the dynamics of China’s innovations in censorship, which is classified into three categories. As Nordin explains, the macro...


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