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This essay explores China's thinking about international relations from the perspective of the Xi Jinping doctrine and considers the implications for China's engagement with the international order.
The Xi Jinping doctrine, conceived as the collective body of thought embodied in Xi's remarks, writings, and instructions, offers an entry to the deep currents of China's thinking about international relations. The surface-level frame of reference guiding this doctrine is "the mission of the Chinese Communist Party." In advancing this mission, Xi and the party draw on three deeper cognitive frames. The first of these—"national rejuvenation"—is focused on restoring China's wealth and power. The second and third deeper frames of reference—"global community" and "Chinese contribution"—aim to foster common interests and contribute to global governance, respectively. The Xi Jinping doctrine thus throws into sharp relief the challenges of China's foreign relations in the 21st century.
• The "national rejuvenation" frame of reference, by aiming to restore China's international status to an as yet unspecified rightful position, rubs up against the established dominance of the West since the dawn of the modern era.
• The "global community" frame of reference, by promoting mutually beneficial cooperation, will help smooth China's international engagement.
• The "Chinese contribution" frame of reference, though encouraging in its emphasis on international peace and development, is unsettling, especially for Western elites, because of its potential to morph into the promotion of a Chinese model of international relations.