Social States: China in International Institutions, 1980-2000 (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics) Review
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Not surprisingly, readers can still find some familiar terms such as realism, neo-classical realism, neo-realism, contractual institutionalism and social constructivism. Johnston looks at these theories one by one and lists out their deficiencies in illustrating that there is something we cannot explain in international relations. As a specialist on Chinese foreign policy, Johnston found that the traditional theories could not help us to understand why China joined the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), signed the Revised Landmine Protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (revisions of Protocol II) and worked with some regional institutions that China had long opposed in the past.
Every social scientist has a typical lens to measure, study and research. The lens of Johnston is the combination of sociology and psychology. "Mimicking", "social influence" and "persuasion" are the new lens to examine Chinese foreign policy.
In the chapter of "mimicking", the author gives a very detailed definition. A state joins social institution not necessarily because of a careful calculation of national interests. Rather, it is because a state thinks that there may be some benefits in social institution since so many countries have already joined it. Once a state joined the social institutions, there are "lock-in" effects which a state has to pay a high cost to leave it. Besides, China was a new member to social institution in the 1980s, "mimicking" naturally becomes China's survival strategy in order to be familiar with the existing mechanism within the institution. One example is that China started to use the term "arms control" but not insisted to use "disarmament" as she did in 1980s. Definitely China opposed the idea of "arms control" as it is a term of the United States and Soviet Union to play over power politics without anything to do with "disarmament" which is supposed to lead to peace finally. Nevertheless, China mimicked to use the term. To be a part of the international community, China not only needs to understand the international discourse, but to mimic it.
In the chapter of "social influence", the very key terms are "backpatting" and "opprobrium". "Backpatting" means "an actor receives recognition, praise, and normative support for its involvement in the process" (p.91) while "opprobrium" means "a denial of the actor's identity". (p.92) The author believes that to be a great power today, a state needs to gain recognition from other states through "pro-social behavior", which is totally different from the past that a state becomes great power by the means of force. China joined the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Revised Landmine Protocol to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons are used by Johnston to illustrate that social influence can be a driving force behind China's integration with the current world order.
In the chapter of "persuasion", Johnston argues that China has no intention to use the ASEAN Regional Forum for counteracting the American hegemony. Rather, China was very sceptical about multilateralism. Under the persuasion of the ASEAN, China has adapted to the norm and practice of multilateralism which finally led to further cooperation with ASEAN in inter-sessional process and other agendas such as the solution over the disputes of South China Sea.
Definitely, socialization provides a new angle of studying the Chinese foreign policy. Different from the traditional approach such as neo-liberalism, China cooperates with other countries in international institutions not purely because of increasing international interdependency, but also about the concern of China's image and social pressures among numerous countries within the international institution. Though socialization seems to complicate the motives and intentions of a rising China, it is better to simplify the rise of China as a must to challenge the status-quo as many realists argue.
Social States: China in International Institutions, 1980-2000 (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics) Overview
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