Qin Yaqing on Rules vs Relations

… Drinking Coffee and Tea, and a Chinese Approach to Global Governance – Published on Theory Talks, Talk no 45: with Qin Yaqing, November 30, 2011.  (also in a 10 pages PDF-text).

Since the end of the Cold War, IR has been preoccupied with the rise of China, yet most analyses of, and theorizing around, China is the product of western scholars; more generally, IR theory is profoundly biased towards western interests, institutions, and ideas. There are however other conceptions of international relations IR.   

Much discussed for instance is the so-called ‘ASEAN way’, the success of which seems to hinge more on relations than on rules. In this Talk, the eminent Chinese IR scholar Qin Yaqing not only expands on the oriental or Chinese approach to IR, but also engages the western bias in IR and, in extension of Chinese values, and argues that any approach to theorizing global governance needs to be first and foremost balanced … //

… Finally, to take a broader view, can one speak of something like a Chinese school of IR, or at least an emerging Chinese school of IR, and how should it be characterized?

  • Then we come to this question of a Chinese school. I think Western IR theories are already established and influential—even taken for granted!—and Chinese IR theories are almost nothing. So we should change this kind of marginalization. Let the good values of the Chinese culture and tradition become part of IR ideational edifice. If you want to do something like that, change the intellectual status quo, you have to sometimes go to some extreme, so as to at least open up a way for it. Otherwise nobody will pay any attention to Chinese ideas. If you wouldn’t use the label, other people wouldn’t even see them. So you need to use the label. That’s the only reason I use the name ‘Chinese school’. I don’t think it’s entirely correct to use a nation’s name to for an intellectual school, but if one uses it, it is more as a symbol to express something, there is no harm in that. Although there is no obvious coherence let alone unanimity among Chinese IR scholars, it may be necessary at this stage to speak of it in this way.
  • And what is a Chinese school as an idea? Nobody can use only the resources of your own tradition to establish a school nowadays. You cannot separate yourself like that. That’s why I don’t agree with Professor Zhao Tingyang who claims to draw solely from Chinese traditions. Even his work is not pure in the end! Yet on the other end, I don’t agree with Professor Yan Xuetong either, as I don’t think that IR Theory is always universal. It should attain some degree of universality, but locality, the local practices, are important. The Chinese have debated for over one hundred years the thought ???????? zhongxue wei ti, xixue wei yong – ‘Chinese learning as the essence, Western learning as the practical means.’ But I am always against that, so I wrote a short article entitled ???????? shijie wei ti, quanqiu wei yong – ‘the world as the essence, the globe as the platform for practice’. This has only been published in Chinese. That is, I continue with my idea of a global vision—even in establishing the Chinese school of IR, you cannot avoid using a lot of things you learn from the Western theorizing, approaches, and their ideas, their concepts, yet at the same time you need a modern, contemporary reinterpretation of traditional Chinese narratives. If you don’t have this, then you continue to be Western. If you have this, then you may add some value to the Western thought. So that’s what I’m thinking about.

(full long text and related links).

Link: International Relations IR on en.wikipedia.

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