Seven Chinas

A Policy Framework


Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy
Occasional Paper Series 
No. 3 l February 2018 

The debate about China’s changing role in global affairs is often framed as a dichotomous choice between a peacefully rising China that seeks to be a constructive stakeholder and an increasingly dangerous China that is challenging the status quo, both in terms of its norms and the place of the United States. The reality is more complicated. There are not only signs of both elements, but the foundations shaping Chinese behavior is multifold. Most international relations scholars examine China through one or another version of realism or liberalism. David Kelly, head of research at China Policy, offers an alternative approach that examines the nature of Chinese identity, or rather, Chinese identities, plural, and how they exhibit themselves in Chinese foreign policy. Using his renowned skills in reading Chinese-language official documents and the broader commentary, Kelly teases out seven narratives that Chinese tell themselves and the world, and he provides a codebook for explicating shifting Chinese behavior in different arenas. Kelly concludes that some of these narratives facilitate cooperation, but most point toward deep-seated tensions between China and the West in the years ahead.

Previous Contributions

No. 1 l September 2015
Daniel H. Rosen and Beibei Bao, “Improving the Abacus

No. 2 l March 2017
Michael Komesaroff, “Make the Foreign Serve China

Other Recent Freeman Chair Publications

Scott Kennedy, “The Beijing Playbook: Chinese Industrial Policy and Its Implications for the United States,” in James A. Lewis, ed., Meeting the China Challenge: Responding to China’s Managed Economy (CSIS, January 2018).

Bonnie S. Glaser, Scott Kennedy, and Derek Mitchell, with Matthew Funaiole, The New Southbound Policy: Deepening Taiwan’s Regional Integration (CSIS, January 2018). 

David Kelly

Researcher, China Policy