Emotions, international hierarchy, and the problem of solipsism in Sino-US South China Sea politics

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Wirth, Christian
Griffith University Author(s)
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2019
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Abstract

This study offers an explanation for Beijing’s seemingly self-defeating approach to the South China Sea that distances China ever more from the regional and international communities which it wants to lead and join while drawing in the foreign military presence that it seeks to keep at a distance. Combining recent research on the role of emotions and on hierarchy in international politics, this article shows how the powerful narrative of national ‘humiliation’ and ‘rejuvenation’ has informed Chinese maritime politics. As the South China Sea became incorporated in the linear timeline of China’s 5000 year civilizational history, the US’ and its allies’ push-back against Beijing’s territorial claims deepened China’s ideational isolation. The ensuing state of solipsism increases the risk of violent confrontations.

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International Relations
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© The Author(s) 2019. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Policy and administration
Political science
Social Sciences
International Relations
China
emotions
international hierarchy
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Wirth, C, Emotions, international hierarchy, and the problem of solipsism in Sino-US South China Sea politics, International Relations, 2019, 34 (1), pp. 25-45
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