China's great power aspirations in the post-Mao era

  • Susanna Sun Yung YEUNG

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


From the Dengist leadership onwards, China sought to increase its capabilities - economic, military, and diplomatic - in its quest for great power status in the international system. Internally, China began a series of domestic reforms in the economic, military and high-technology areas. Externally, China directed unusual energy to establishing normal relations with other major powers as well as with the Third World. These actions testify to the Chinese leadership’s aspirations and determination to build China into a strong nation. This study, taking cognizance of the endeavors begun under Deng, attempts to follow through with post-Deng China’s continuing quest for great power status.

Methodologically, this study will draw upon the linkage-politics paradigm and geostrategic theory, in order to take care of both the domestic and external aspects of the topic that need be examined. The former is useful in explicating the links between domestic political developments and foreign-policy initiatives. Geostrategic analysis will illuminate the change in China’s international status from the Maoist era to the post-Cold War era. It will help explicate how change in the international environment has presented new challenges, as well as opportunities, to China in its role and status in international relations, calling for new responses.

To understand China’s perceived great-power status in world politics, two elements should be considered. The first is the perception of other states in the world. Being a great power is not self-claimed, it requires recognition by other members of international society. The second element is China5 s self-image. Whether China sees itself as a great power depends on both its own aspirations and its calculated endeavors to achieve it This study addresses both of these elements.

In this study, I hope to trace both the external and internal changes affecting China’s position in the world in the post-Mao period. During the 1980s through to the 1990s, most evidence supports the view that China’s participation in regional and global activities was increasing. As its role in international relations expanded, its visibility and status also improved correspondingly. Barring unexpected changes in the continuing expansion of its involvement in world affairs, all indications are that China’s quest for great-power status is heading towards the right direction, as intended by the post-Mao leadership.
Date of Award23 Nov 2000
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorYue REN (Co-supervisor)

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