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Relationality and Its Chinese Characteristics

  • Emilian Kavalski (a1)

China's expanding outreach and diversifying roles have provided a novel context for the ongoing reconsiderations of world politics. As a result, inquiries into how China thinks and in what way its history and traditions inform the idiosyncrasies of China's international outlook have grown into a cottage industry both in International Relations (IR) and across the full spectrum of the humanities and social sciences. In this setting, Beijing's external relations draw attention both because of their agency and due to the specificities of China's individual engagements. What has remained overlooked, however, is that such preoccupation with China has been paralleled by the emergence of a relational turn in IR. One could argue that this is not a mere coincidence. Relationality in IR has become prominent not least because of its simultaneous appropriation by both the so-called Western and non-Western (especially, Chinese) perspectives on world affairs. In this respect, the three books under review seem to have a shared interest in interpreting China's growing significance on the world stage through such relational lenses. Together the three books under review illustrate vividly that the complex patterns of global life resonate with relationality and dynamism, rather than the static and spatial arrangements implicit in the fetishized currency of self-other/centre-periphery/hegemon-challenger models underpinning the binary metanarratives of IR.

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Jackson, Patrick T. and Nexon, Daniel. 1999. “Relations before States.” European Journal of International Relations 5(3): 291332.
Kavalski, Emilian. 2012. Central Asia and the Rise of Normative Powers. New York: Bloomsbury.
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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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