Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by David S.G. Goodman
Chapter 21: China on the world stage
In an era when China is widely regarded as one of the major actors on the world stage, it is salient to remember that this role is a relatively recent phenomenon. To be sure, China was never really wholly absent from the world stage, even during the relatively isolationist days of the Maoist era. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was, after all, a nuclear power from the mid-1960s, a willing pawn in power-balancing between the superpowers during the Cold War, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) with veto power from 1971. Nevertheless, the scope and depth of China’s global presence and power today is markedly different from the first decades of the PRC, and the way in which China exercises its rising power has been identified as one of the most important ‘great dramas’ of the twenty-first century which will help to determine the fate of the Western global liberal order (Ikenberry 2008: 23). The primary purpose of this chapter, then, is to trace the way in which China has emerged from relative isolation to become an actor on the world stage with the potential to influence the trajectory of global politics.
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