China and the Global Politics of Regionalization

China and the Global Politics of Regionalization

Author(s): Emilian Kavalski (ed)

ISBN: 978-0-7546-7599-0

Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Limited

Year: 2009

Price: $99.95

Reviewed by Muhammad Junaid Nadvi, PhD, Assistant Professor, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan

This book is part of (The international political economy of new regionalisms series) published by Ashgate Publishing Limited, England/USA, which seeks the views of scholars of Political science and International relations of various institutions such as International Policy Studies, Monetary Institute of International Studies, European Research Institute, Asian Studies, East Asian Studies and renowned universities of Australia, UK and USA.

Current volume seeks to elicit the opinion of noted scholars about China and the Global Politics of Regionalization, which answers the following five questions: (1) why has China initially involved in the politics of regionalization? (2) What example(s) can be seen as the participation of China in global regionalization which illustrates the use of game of regionalization? (3) What is the role of China in the politics of regionalization? (4) What will be the result of China’s participation in global politics of regionalization in 21st century? (5) What are the most important open problems in the politics of regionalization and what are the prospects for China?

The contributors to this anthology include: Carrie Liu Currier, David Scott, Emilian Kavalski (ed.), Enyu Zhang, Feng Zhang, Greg Anderson, Jeremy T. Paltiel, Jian Yang, Jing-dong Yuan, Julie M. Bunck, Manochehr Dorraj, Ralph Pettman, Sheng Ding, Stephen Aris and Yongjin Zhang.

I found this book to be an important contribution to the literature of global political-economy. It collects the views of some renowned scholars in the area. It tells what drew them to the subject, and how they view their own contributions to the discipline and where they see the field of international political economy of new regionalism is going, especially in terms of open questions and answers. The book primarily appeals the political stake holders in global politics and secondly academicians/researchers working in applications of political-economics and its related areas. I think it might be well-suited to graduate students who are looking for dissertation ideas and researchers who are just starting their careers. Here they will find a panoramic overview of the discipline. They will be exposed to the broad range of ideas and research topics that drew these scholars to study the Global Politics of Regionalization and numerous applications to which they might not have given attention. Overall, the book is well structured by the editor.

The book “China and the Global Politics of Regionalization,” produced with an consistent eclectic approach is divided in two parts, 15 chapters, note on contributors, abbreviations, acknowledgements, bibliography and an index.

Chapter 1, “Do as I do: The Global Politics of China’s Regionalization,” serves as an introduction to the engagement of China in international relations deals with the reality of new regionalisms. It asserts that the proliferation of different regionalism reflects the globalizing contestation of the very idea of what the pattern of international politics should look like and how it should be practiced. Thus, if democracy has indeed become the fundamental standard of political legitimacy in the current era, it is to be expected, that the concurrent “democratization” of international relations would enunciate a cacophony of alternative (and non-Western) voices promoting alternative visions of the “appropriate” forms of legitimation and authority in global life. In other words, the study of comparative regionalism reveals the expansion of international societies (pp.1-6).

Chapter 2, “Regionalization in the Tianxia? Continuity and Change in China’s Foreign Policy,” illuminates the notion and practices of “Tianxia” and probes the patterns of Beijing’s international affairs in the light of historical comparisons to contemporary world politics. The article argues that the experience of the past can provide relevant frameworks for uncovering the dynamics of socialization (p.19).[1]

Chapter 3, “A concealed Regionalization without Historical Roots: A New Form of Regionalism is Rising China’s Foreign Policy,” reviews the impact of China’s historical traditions on its current foreign policy practice. The author assumes that there is little in the “international” relations of ancient China that could add to the “historical roots of regionalization.” He has analyzed the weaknesses and limitations of China’s regionalization signified by its relations with the Global south (pp. 33-44).

Chapter 4, “China’s Regionalization Policies: Illiberal Internationalism or Neo-Mencian Benevolence?” interrogates the kind of practices which animate China’s commitment to regionalism. It assumes that historical parallels offer useful framework for understanding the kind of foreign policy practice rather than establishing actual roots to the previous experience. Thus, China’s regionalization can be read as a “neo-Mencian” foreign policy founded on the capacity of exercise moral leadership (pp. 47-60).

The next two chapters, 5, “Identity, Nationalism, and China’s Policy towards Regionalization,” and 6, ” From Adapting to Shaping: Contextualizing the Practice of Regionalization in China’s Foreign Policy,” have captured China’s regionalization strategies within the frameworks of its domestic and foreign policy making, and found that the inside/outside divide has been a central feature of the study of new regionalism (pp. 63-79).

Chapter 7, “The Reluctance of Hegemons: Comparing the Regionalization Strategies of a Crouching Cowboy and a Hidden Dragon,” and Chapter 8, “From Brussels to Beijing: Comparing the Regionalization Strategies of the EU and China,” are engaged in a parallel assessment of China’s regionalization with USA and EU, which show the similarities and differences between China and the West’s two dominant models of regionalization (pp.80-122).

Chapter 9, “China and the Political Economy of Regionalization in East Asia,” traces the frameworks of Beijing’s involvement in East Asia, and finds that, a conventional political economy approach offers little conclusive evidence on the conflict cooperation propensity of new regionalisms (pp. 123-138).

Chapter 10, “China’s Region-Building Strategy in South Asia,” outlines the intricacies of China’s regionalization of Southeast Asia. It engages with the dominant analytical perspectives promoted for the explanation and understanding of China’s agency in the region (pp. 139-152).

Chapter 11, “Spreading the Shanghai Spirit: A Chinese Model of Regionalization in Post-Soviet Central Asia,” brings the discussion of China’s regionalization to the experience of Central Asia in the form of ‘Shanghai Cooperation Organization’ (pp. -153-164).

Chapter 12, “Reconstructing the Silk Road in a New Era: China’s Expanding Regional Influence in the Middle East,” explains Beijing’s regionalization of Middle East and Africa (pp. 165-176).

Chapter 13, “Making a Region out of a Continent?,” demonstrates that while China’s sudden rise provokes concern, fear, and suspicion in the West, in the non-West, Beijing is increasingly starting to be perceived as an appealing alternative (pp. 177-190). Likewise, chapter 14, “China and Latin America: An Evolving Military Dynamic,” uncovers the evolving military dynamic of China’s regionalization initiatives in Latin America (pp. 191-204). Chapter 15, “China and South Pacific Regionalism: The Rising Power as a Cautious Newcomer,” takes this conceptualization to the experience of China’s nascent agency in the South Pacific (pp. 205-220).

The book concludes that the Chinese ideas will spread. A significant shift with impact is being observed by the emerging practices of china’s regionalization. The global politics of China’s dynamics appears to present a viable alternative to Western models as a promising formula for state-led, third-world development. It indicates a “move beyond the West” which requires not only its condemnation, but its “rediscovery and re-imagination”. The practise of China’s regionalization in the social context of its dynamics reveals the emergence of a world of relational process, which must be studied in relational terms. Patterns of regionalization reveal that while the “security” of Western International Relations theory is still intact, the Western practice of international relations is not (pp.15-16).

The contributions to this book seem to agree that China’s regional arrangement indicates a new global governance mechanism. China’s outreach to different global locales offers alternative practices of regionalization. In contrast to Western forms of region-building, China’s template does not appear to reduce the number of actors involved in the process of negotiation within the international arena. Beijing’s outreach appears to multiply (if not complexify) the stratum of practices and interactions in the region (p.10).

This anthology should not be taken as an attempt to suggest that there is singular non-Western regionalization, just as there is no single Western regionalization. It is not an exercise of ordering or classification; instead, it aims to draw attention to the many different kinds of “International Relation Theories” in the world. However, the diversity of perspectives presented in this anthology draws attention to distinct modes of region-building departing from the broad generalizing labels of “Western” and “non-Western”. Therefore, the literature on regionalization needs attention to the varieties of new regionalisms permeating global life. Accounting for their proliferation would require an acknowledgement not only of their reality, but also of their validity and legitimacy (p.16).


[1] In the traditional Chinese worldview there was no concept of “religion”. Instead, the distinctive concept used by the Chinese was Tianxia, or the surrounding world. Tianxia has been commonly translated into English as “all under heaven”.

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