Conceptual Developments of Chinese Nationalism and its Impact on the Development-Based Foreign Policy

Document Type : Original Article


1 PhD Candidate in International Relations, Isfahan University, Isfahan, Iran

2 Associate professor International Relations, Isfahan University, Isfahan, Iran

3 Associate professor, International Relations, Isfahan University, Isfahan, Iran


Extended abstract
After the victory of communist revolution in China, Nationalism had been combined with communist teachings as result of cultural revolution at the Mao era. The outputs of mentioned process caused to formation of ideological and transnational principles in Chinese foreign policy. But after nearly three decades, People's Republic of China has not achieved its foreign goals and faced with turmoil in domestic economy. Therefore, at the late of 1970s Beijing endeavored to improving their relations with the outside world, especially with the United States. Over the 1980s-decade transnationalism ideas replaced with pragmatist nationalism. These developments paved the way for control the nationalism narrative by China development-oriented government. It is important to point out that one of the most important factors which influence states foreign policy is the kind of nationalism narrative. There are different kinds of nationalism in china's political temporary discourse, but only one of them has taken dominant position in China’s foreign policy. The aim of this article is to analyze the conceptual developments of Chinese nationalism and its impact on the development-oriented foreign policy. The research will examine main kinds of nationalistic attitudes in China and try to answer the following question: how do dominant narrative of nationalism contribute to construct the development-oriented foreign policy in china? Developmental outlook of China has directed it to interpret and promulgate nationalism in a pragmatist way as well as along its development-oriented foreign policy.
To analyze above mentioned issues the authors used a research desk method; we used various international publications, like monographs, scientific articles, and statistical data. This research has written by descriptive-analytic method and constructivism theory used as analytical framework.
Researchers owing to the goal of their research have classified Chinese nationalism from different perspectives. The authors of this article divided Chinese nationalism into three following categories: ethnical nationalism, liberal nationalism and pragmatism nationalism. The first one (ethnic nationalism) is usually defined as “to the process whereby a group or community that shares a common history, culture, language, and territory is persuaded to assert its identity in such a way that it acquires the authority to be in charge of its own affairs, usually through the creation of an independent state.” When ethnic nationalist interests are mobilized to achieve state interests, that is, state nationalism, a more assertive brand of nationalism tends to emerge. The second one (liberal nationalism) was introduced in the early twentieth century as a means to improve China through political and social reforms. It defines the nation as a group of citizens who have a duty to support and defend the rights of their state in the world of nation-states, but also to pursue individual freedoms. The third one (pragmatist nationalism) is a state-led and largely reactive, pragmatist nationalism does not have a fixed, objectified and eternally defined content, nor is it driven by any ideology, religious beliefs or other abstract ideas. This kind of nationalism is a form of nationalism that is more ready to compromise with the outside world for the sake of state interests. After Deng Xiaoping launched the reform pragmatist nationalism has taken significant foreign policy implications. China’s diplomacy began to serve economic development under the guidance of keeping a low profile and accumulating strength quietly. In addition, nationalism is becoming more influential within the government as it begins to overshadow communism and becomes the concept that draws the government and people closer to the economic objectives more effectively.
Facing chronic economic problems and acute political crisis at home and from a relatively weak geopolitical position abroad, the Chinese state took a pragmatic attitude toward nationalism and made sure that China’s foreign policy was not dictated by emotional rhetoric. The results of the article shows that China's development-oriented foreign policy has compelled Chinese ruling party to economic interpretation of nationalism which have led to impressive economic indexes so that will replace the US dominant economic status in third decade of new millennium.


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Volume 18, Issue 65
April 2022
Pages 115-149
  • Receive Date: 17 September 2019
  • Revise Date: 13 August 2020
  • Accept Date: 29 September 2020
  • First Publish Date: 29 September 2020