A social Identity Analysis of the Discrepancy In China's Foreign Policy

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China has become more powerful over the last decades, and exerts a lot of influence in international society. This results in the necessity of a profound and differentiated account of China’s foreign policy and the motives affecting Chinese policy choices. Neorealism and neoliberalism deem China’s foreign policy to be ambivalent due to the diverging directions of its policy components. The English School sharply differentiates itself from the rationalist approaches, and demonstrates that group thinking and comparison among states affect their foreign policy. Subsequently, the Social Identity Theory (SIT) provides insight in how status concerns exert influence on a state’s policy choices. This study analyzes China’s foreign policy by means of an illustrative case study, which comprises of three sub-cases, namely China’s foreign economic policy, security policy and humanitarian aid policy. The conditions affecting a state’s policy choices are revised in order to align them with the English School’s tenets and SIT’s focus on establishing the state’s perceptions through an insiders perspective. This interpretive research shows that China’s foreign policy components are illustrative of SIT, and are part of a comprehensive strategy to increase China’s status in international society. China’s perceptions concerning whether higher-status groups will accept China as a member, its willingness to join this group, and its abilities are the paramount factors affecting the foreign policy of China. In order to account for the policy of status-seeking states, it is key to understand their context, identity, perceptions and desires.
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