DFG Research Project

Role Change and Role Contestation in the People's Republic of China: Globalization of "Chinese" Concepts of Order?

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) - Nele Noesselt Project number 238920157

This project analyzes the global implications resulting from the institutional reforms and the re-steering of the PRC's development model since 2013. The recalibration of the Chinese party-state – as the evaluation of the inner-Chinese debates on modes of governance and development roadmaps (2002-2017) evidences – reflects changes at the global level and calculates potential global-local spill-over effects. At the same time, China's increased global presence and its economic power might imply that Chinese governance concepts and normative ordering principles will play a more prominent role in the reform of the institutional backbones of the world system in the near future. The "New Silk Road" initiative is just one example how core elements of China’s domestic development blueprints are exported to the regional and global level. Various competing views on political rule, ordering principles, and China’s global role co-exist among factions inside the Chinese Communist Party as well as among China's epistemic communities. China’s official national role set is currently undergoing major reconfigurations, which mirror material and ideational changes at the domestic and the global level of "Chinese" politics. Studies on role contestation have so far been focused on democratic pluralist political systems – role contestation in modern autocracies has remained undertheorized; the reconfiguration of China's official role sets and related concepts such as system identity and global status has remained underresearched. This project seeks to overcome these lacunae by undertaking a case study based analysis of the PRC's internal and global role contestations. It will examine the ideas and normative ordering principles underlying the ongoing vertical and horizontal role contestation and the re-calibration of the PRC's official role set – by also including China's role interactions with "significant" other global players. Changes in terms of (role) claims or modifications of actors' global positions do not necessarily result from global structural changes, but can – as outlined in studies on the re-bargaining of national role sets in democratic systems – be inspired by paradigm changes and the substitution of policy ideas at the domestic level. This has direct implications for the sector of policy advice and political consultation: A systematic theory-guided analysis of China’s domestic role contestations is a necessary prerequisite for assessing the drivers behind the PRC's role claims and its strategic positioning in bilateral interactions as well as in the context of world politics.

Research Team

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Prof. Dr. Dr. Nele Noesselt (Principial Investigator)

Team members:

Dr. Elizaveta Priupolina (work package: China & Russia)
Tanja Eckstein (work package: China & US)
Jan Horstmann (research assistant)
Lucy Yang (research assistant)


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Preliminary DFG Project Results Workshop: Navigating Sino-Russian Relations in the 2010s: Role Claims and Mutual Expectations, March 29&30, 2021 


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Noesselt, Nele/Eckstein, Tanja/Priupolina, Elizaveta (2021), Chinese Concepts of Regional and Global Order: Decrypting the Security Narratives of Daguo Waijiao (conference paper)