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Nationalism and multilateralism in Chinese foreign policy: implications for Southeast Asia

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One of Michael Leifer's main fears for the future role of ASEAN arose from the spectre of a rising nationalistic China. This article assesses whether recent developments have borne out those fears by looking at the nature of Beijing's evolving multilateral approach towards the region. Agreeing with Leifer that nationalism is an important influence on Chinese foreign policy, the article explores the complex relationship between domestic politics and the discourse of multipolarity in China to propose that multilateralism is an effective way for Beijing to increase its regional power while avoiding confrontation with the United States or regional powers like India and Japan. However, Beijing's multilateralism is still premised on hard conceptions of state sovereignty and has to be developed in the context of a nationalistic political culture that prevents the achievement of regional stability through compromise on issues such as the South China Sea disputes and the Taiwan question. China's continuing economic growth also means that its multilateralism in Southeast Asia will unavoidably be shaped by issues such as the role of the ethnic Chinese as economic bridgeheads and the realities of an increasingly asymmetrical balance of power. Meanwhile, the relative economic weakness of the Southeast Asian states also means that nature of ASEAN-style regionalism will continue to be determined by the extra-mural balance of power, with China as one of the major actors, as Michael Leifer predicted.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/17077/1/Nationalism_and_multilateralism_in_Chinese_foreign_policy%28LSERO%29.pdf

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