International Society and China: The Power of Norms and the Norms of Power

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The core suggestion of this article is that we make best sense of the concepts of power, legitimacy, and responsibility within a framework of international society. This framework is illustrated by, and applied to, the specific case of China’s rise. In the light of its historical background, a rising China faces a major paradox. Seemingly, the prerequisite for it to exercise greater influence on the norms of international society is yet further assimilation into them: in order to become a respected norm maker, China must first be seen to be fully integrated as an appropriate norm taker. To be in a position to influence the norms of international society, China must seemingly firstly resolve any lingering ambiguities about its membership. In short, should the debates about China’s status be understood as an expression of the power of norms (where China is assessed relative to some universal standard of responsibility), or are they better viewed as the deployment of the norms of power in such a way as to impact its social distribution to China’s disadvantage (by imposing the self-interested standards of the liberal states)?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-340
JournalChinese Journal of International Politics
Issue number3
Early online date06 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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