Whither Chinese IR? The Sinocentric subject and the paradox of Tianxia-ism

Sinan Chu
2020 International Theory  
This essay critically assesses the Tianxia Theories, a line of indigenous International Relations (IR) theorizing in China organized around the concept of Tianxia ('all-under-heaven'). My goal is to tackle a seemingly prevalent issue among non-Western IR theories, that is, the indigenous scholars' subservience to state cues and often uncritical attitude toward their own ethnocentrism. To that end, I strategically target a recent contribution to this scholarship that explicitly seeks to
more » ... y seeks to articulate a non-ethnocentric theory: Xu Jilin's New Tianxia-ism (xin tianxia zhuyi). I first examine the main thesis of New Tianxia-ism to reveal its internal tensions. Then I examine what enables the formulation of New Tianxia-ism from a discursive perspective. I argue that a particular subject position, to which I refer as the 'Sinocentric Subject', plays an instrumental role in enabling contemporary Chinese intellectuals to think along the logics of New Tianxia-ism. The result, however, undermines the agenda to articulate an alternative theory that rectifies the ethnocentrism in IR. In conclusion, I suggest that Chinese indigenous scholarship ought to engage more critically the ideological inclination and the politics of knowledge within its own epistemic community.
doi:10.1017/s1752971920000214 fatcat:lv5xhkg26rbbfnqbf5nhaqtli4