China's ascendency

Its nature and repercussions

The emergence of China as a global actor has attracted enormous attention from policy-makers, economists, journalists and business leaders. The need to understand and debate China’s ascendency has never been more important given the changing security environment in the Asia-Pacific region. Research conducted at LJMU has played a significant part in shaping UK Government and diplomatic responses to the rise of China as a global power.

Dr Rex Li, Reader in International Relations and International Journalism at LJMU, has tracked, dissected and analysed the changing discourse of Chinese policy elites for over 15 years. His research is based on an in-depth analysis of a wide range of Chinese-language sources not readily available in the West, along with off-the-record interviews and public discussions with Chinese scholars and think-tank specialists, making for a unique insight into China’s foreign policy-making and security strategy.

The central argument of Dr Li’s research is that a country’s security perceptions are shaped by the desire and efforts of its policy elites to construct a distinct national identity. While material forces – such as power and capability – are relevant, the research has explored the significance of ideational factors such as values, norms and identity.

The research is essentially concerned with gaining a thorough understanding of China’s perceptions of other significant countries in relation to its self-perception as a rising power. How China perceives itself and the outside world is of huge importance to its neighbours and to the international community.

Dr Li’s research publications have communicated that China is deeply apprehensive of the strategic intentions of the US and Japan, perceiving that these two countries seek to undermine China’s efforts to achieve a great power status.

The Chinese discourse of Europe is much more positive whilst Chinese suspicion of Russia is (currently) minimal. In terms of China’s aspirations, there is evidence to suggest that the long-term goal of Chinese elites is to reshape the norms and rules of the international society to reflect China’s growing power and expanding global interests. However, China is facing numerous domestic challenges, which could have serious repercussions on its external relations. The West must prepare for various scenarios of a rising China including a strong but chaotic China.

As the research findings are particularly relevant to the needs of the foreign and security policy community in Whitehall, Dr Li has been regularly invited to give presentations derived from his research at leading international affairs and security think-tanks and government departments.

Specifically, the research insights on Chinese security discourse and its impact on China’s foreign policy and regional and international security have been used to contribute to the policy discussions in official and diplomatic circles and to inform foreign and security policy-making in the UK.

Find out more about the research within the Media, Culture, Communications Research Group.

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