, Volume 92, Number 4

Yongjin Zhang
This article investigates the entanglement of the rising Chinese power with the liberal global order in negotiating for normative change. Drawing upon the English School theoretical perspective, it argues that three hierarchical constructs of liberal persuasion co-exist in and cohabit the global international society today. They are, namely, the legalized hegemony as seen in the UN Charter-based liberal pluralism; the changing normative order of emerging solidarist and anti-pluralist formation that purposively creates unequal sovereigns; and the liberal global governance order that moves predominantly in the direction of state-centric solidarism. As an emerging power with an authoritarian regime, China’s entanglement with these liberal hierarchical constructs is multifaceted with complex dynamics. The article argues specifically that three differentiated strategic approaches have been developed by China in this entanglement: to defend liberal pluralism in the legalized hegemony; to contest liberal cosmopolitan anti-pluralism in the changing normative order; and to endorse state-centric solidarism with regard to the construction of a liberal global governance order. If they reflect a rising China’s preferences of order construction, they also constitute an important part of China’s engaging negotiations for normative change in international society. The agency China exercises in this regard helps explain the limited consensus among Great Powers as to the ‘central direction’ for the evolving global order. The preferences of China as the second among equals in the Great Power club matter greatly in understanding the contention between pluralism and solidarism in the changing raison de système of contemporary global international society.

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