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China and the Liberal Order

January 7, 2011

The Danish Institute of International Studies have just issued an interesting  paper by Trine Flockhart and Li Xing on the implications of China’s rise for the liberal world order.  The growing power of China has inevitable consequences.  Flockhart and Xing argue that rather than seeing an inevitable conflict what is required is a pragmatic effort to adapt to the new situation.  In particular they argue for a diplomatic focus on ‘conventions’ – what states do rather than ‘convictions’ – what states say they believe.

One way of reading this is as a distinction between two versions of liberalism.  A ‘conventions’ approach is rooted in the view that liberalism is rooted in enlightened self interest so that an agreement on rules and modes of behaviour does not require any fundamental agreement on values.  In contrast the ‘convictions’ approach sees international order as stemming from the nature of domestic political regimes or from a consensus on values.

These two positions imply different diplomatic strategies including different public diplomacy strategies.  The former will focus on constructing support for particular conventions.  In contrast the conviction approach will be quicker to see difference as a source of conflict.

In thinking about the future of public diplomacy it is important to give some thought to the nature of the emerging international political order (not just the emerging media environment) because it the intersection between the two that will shape what is an effective 21st century public diplomacy.

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One comment

  1. Thank you Robin for drawing attention to this interesting paper. I will pick up on this theme in my recently started blog http://chinarelations.wordpress.com/
    which will also deal with China’s public diplomacy.
    Best, Ingrid d’Hooghe



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