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 

International Authors' Workshop “Visualized Narratives” (via Zoom), June & July 2021

International Authors' Workshop "Narratives in East Asia and Beyond" (via Zoom), March 2022

Lecture Series 2022: China's Global Rise - Contesting the Liberal World Order

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Steve Chan   University of Colorado Boulder
Contesting Revisionism: China, the United States, and the Transformation of International Order

Courtney J. Fung   Macquarie University, Sydney
Looking to Lead? China and UN Peacekeeping

G. John Ikenberry   Princeton University
A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order

Scott Kennedy   Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC
Beyond Decoupling: Maintaining America’s High-Tech Advantages over China

Margaret M. Pearson   University of Maryland
China’s Political Economy and International Backlash

Rosemary Foot   University of Oxford
Institutional Pathways in Challenging the Liberal Order: China at the United Nations

Alexander Cooley   Barnard College, Columbia University, New York
Daniel Nexon   Georgetown University, Washington DC
Shock to the System: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine and the Prospects for Liberal Ordering

Min Ye   Boston University
The Belt and Road: China’s Evolving Global Grand Strategy

Alastair Iain Johnston   Harvard University, Cambridge MA
How Discourses of Order Create Disorder: Comparing the US ‘Rules Based Order’ and China’s ‘Community of Common Destiny’

Pu Xiaoyu   University of Nevada, Reno
Rethinking China’s Rise in a Changing Global Order

Oliver Stuenkel   Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV), São Paulo
The Tech War and the Future of Global Order

Wei Liang   Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Monterey
BRICS minus China? China Shock and the Future of the World Trade Organization

Yi Edward Yang   James Madison University, Virginia
China‘s Strategic Narratives and International Order


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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)

Noesselt, Nele/Eckstein, Tanja/Priupolina, Elizaveta (2021),Decrypting China’s Self-Image as “Great Power”. INEAST Working Paper 130.

Noesselt, Nele/Eckstein, Tanja/ Priupolina, Elizaveta (2021), Decrypting Contemporary China Central Television Documentaries: Assessing the Transformations of Chinese Role-Identity Claims in the Twenty-First Century. In: Noesselt, Nele (ed.) (2021), Visualized Narratives: Signs, Symbols and Political Mythology in East Asia, Europe and the US. Baden-Baden: Tectum/Nomos, 111–134.

Yang, Lucy Xu (2021), Legitimacy through Narration: How Chinese Visions of Global Economic Governance Align with International and Domestic Expectations. In: Noesselt, Nele (ed.) (2021), Visualized Narratives: Signs, Symbols and Political Mythology in East Asia, Europe and the US. Baden-Baden: Tectum/Nomos, 89–110.

Priupolina, Elizaveta (2021), Russian Methodological and Theoretical Approaches to the Analysis of Sino-Russian Relations in 1990s–2010s. In: Christoffersen, Gaye (ed.) (2021), Russia in the Indo-Pacific. New Approaches to Russian Foreign Policy. Routledge: London/New York, Chapter 11 (27 pages). 


Noesselt, Nele (2022), Multilateralismus-Debatten im Schatten von Weltordnungskontroversen: Globaler Multilateralismus statt Multipolaritätsvisionen. https://multilateralismus.com/de/blog/noesselt-globaler-multilateralismus-statt-multipolarittsvisionen

Talks & Presentations

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APSA Conference 2021, paper presentation: “China’s Major Country Diplomacy: Decrypting the Concept of Great Power.” October 3, 2021.
IN-EAST Research Forum 2021: “Daguo Waijiao (Great Power Diplomacy): Visualized Narratives of Chinese Global Role Claims.” May 5, 2021.

KHK & INEF Conference on Ideas for Re-ordering the World in Times of Multiple Crises, paper presentation: “Chinese Concepts of Regional and Global Order: Decrypting the Security Narratives of Daguo Waijiao.” April 22, 2021.