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The Resilience of Self-reliance in China: Autonomy, Interdependence, and Order-Shaping

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Event description

CHINA, DEVELOPMENT AND INTERNATIONAL ORDER SEMINAR SERIES

The idea of ‘self-reliance’ (zili gengsheng) has endured in Chinese political discourse for nearly a century, transcending profound changes in China’s political, economic, and strategic circumstances. While ‘self-reliance’ is frequently misinterpreted as economic isolation or autarky, we instead show that ‘self-reliance’ has always been comprised of three interlocking pillars: autonomy, interdependence, and order-shaping. These three pillars sit in tension with one another, and yet have accommodated and co-existed with one another since the earliest articulations of the idea. Drawing on discursive institutionalism and its understanding of ‘ideational resilience’, we argue that this tripartite structure, replete with internal contradictions, has enabled Chinese leaders since the Republican era to reinterpret and usefully deploy the idea of ‘self-reliance’. Our findings underscore the resilience of key Chinese foreign economic policy ideas; and the ideational logic driving Xi Jinping’s apparently contradictory pursuit of ‘technological self-reliance’, open global markets, and greater connectivity with the developing world.


About the speakers

Amy King is an Associate Professor in the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University, and Deputy Director (Research) in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. She is the author of China-Japan Relations after World War Two: Empire, Industry and War, 1949-1971 (Cambridge University Press, 2016). The holder of an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship and a Westpac Research Fellowship, she leads a team researching China’s role in shaping the international economic order.

Wenting He is a PhD candidate in International Relations at The Australian National University. Her PhD project investigates how China’s ambiguous understanding of market-state relations has shaped its interpretations of economic crises and subsequent engagement with international economic order. Her recent publications unpack the constructive ambiguity of national interest in the context of U.S.-China relations.


About the chair

Wesley Widmaier is a Professor of International Relations at The Australian National University. His research addresses the interplay of wars, crises, and change – and the ways in which stability can cause instability, a concern that spans International Political Economy and International Security debates. He is the author of Presidential Rhetoric from Wilson to Obama: Constructing Crises, Fast and Slow (Routledge, 2015) and Economic Ideas in Political Time: The Rise and Fall of Economic Orders from the Progressive Era to the Global Financial Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Previously he was a Section Chair of the International Political Economy section of the International Studies Association.



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This seminar series is part of a research project on How China Shapes the International Economic Order, generously funded by the Westpac Scholars Trust and the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and led by A/Professor Amy King from the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.


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