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From Reservation to Ambiguity: Academic Debates and China’s Diplomatic Strategy Under Hu’s Leadership

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalEast Asia
Early online date10 Mar 2015
E-pub ahead of print10 Mar 2015

King's Authors


I examine the views of Chinese scholars during the decade of Hu’s leadership concerning China’s diplomatic strategy with respect to the judgment of China’s national power, the orientation of China’s diplomatic goals, and the choice of China’s foreign policy. Chinese scholars increasingly judged China as an emerging major power in a multi-polarizing world. The mainstream academic attitude was that China should augment its international role. The discourse on China’s diplomatic goals experienced a skillful and tacit transition from the “keep a low profile” principle to the “harmonious world” proposal, featured by the shift in emphasis, the expansion of interpretation, and the substitution of concepts. The Chinese academia unanimously endorsed the governmental proposal of the road of peaceful development, while ambiguity can be observed in China’s more assertive responses to challenges to its “core interests”, agenda setting attempts in multilateral cooperation, and various endeavors to gain “soft power”. Underlying the transition of China’s diplomatic strategy was the materialist way of thinking concerning international relations.

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