Territorial Contradictions of the Rise of China: Geopolitics, Nationalism and Hegemony in Comparative-Historical Perspective
There is debate in the literature regarding whether China can become a new world hegemonic power in the 21st century. Most existing analyses focus on economic aspects of world hegemony-building processes and ignore its macro-political dimensions. This article starts with the premise that reshaping the geopolitical configuration of the inter-state system is an important part of world hegemony-building processes. One of the ways in which previous and current world hegemonic powers established their world hegemonies was through the inclusion of new nations by co-opting, supporting or sometimes selectively leading a section of nationalist movements into independence. Our comparative analysis shows that, as of now, contemporary China has not been following this historical pattern. Compared to Mao-era China, which was perceived as a champion of national liberation—at least when colonial and semi-colonial areas were at stake—today’s People’s Republic of China (PRC) is emerging as a champion of the global geo-political status quo. The current Chinese government is not actively pursuing the transformation of the inter-state system or seeking to create instabilities at different levels. This is because, unlike previous and current world hegemonic powers, during its rise to global preeminence, Chinese territorial integrity has been challenged due to rapid escalation of nationalist/secessionist movements within its own state boundaries. Hence, the PRC's foreign policy has consistently been concerned with creating and preserving macro-political stability at national and international levels.
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