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.