China and the Struggle for Legitimacy of a Rising Power

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9 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically explores the historical transformation of the normative structure of international order brought about by legitimacy contests, and unpacks how power is deeply implicated in legitimacy claims amid the ongoing normative transform- ation of contemporary international society by virtue of the vanishing American uni- polarity. By situating the analytical concept of legitimacy at the centre of this inquiry, it examines China’s attempts to win and command social acceptance of the legitim- acy of its rising power as it confronts the challenges posed by the changing norma- tive structure of contemporary international society. The struggle for legitimacy of a rising power, it argues, provides an alternative analytical framework within which to understand how rising Chinese power contests and is contested by the liberal global order dominated by the United States, a question that has fascinated and consumed many realist, liberal, and constructivist scholars. China’s engagement with the pol- itics of legitimation is central to China’s peaceful rise. A careful examination of China’s struggle for legitimacy can yield insights into important systemic conse- quences of the transformation of the normative structure of international society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-322
Number of pages22
JournalChinese Journal of International Politics
Issue number3
Early online date12 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2015

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