Knowledge, Desire and Power in Global Politics

Knowledge, Desire and Power in Global Politics

Western Representations of China’s Rise

Chengxin Pan

Knowledge, Desire and Power in Global Politics is the first systematic and deconstructive analysis of contemporary Western representation of China’s rise. Setting itself apart from the mainstream empiricist literature, its critical interpretative approach and unconventional and innovative perspective will not only strongly appeal to academics, students and the broader reading public, but also likely spark debate in the field of Chinese international relations.

Chapter 8: China watching: towards reflection and dialogue

Chengxin Pan

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics, international politics, international relations


Amid the ever-growing literature on the rise of China, one paradox can hardly escape our attention. That is, evocative of the amusing saying on the Oxford postcard, the more we write and debate about China, the less we seem to know it for sure. Over the years and after so many dedicated conferences, forums and publications, we do not seem to have come any closer to settling the perplexing questions such as what China really is and what its rise means for the rest of the world. The continuing China debate testifies to this lack of consensus. The editors of a book on China watching admit that as a result of the country’s growing complexity, it is increasingly difficult to ‘offer assured conclusions about “China” writ large’. Even William Kristol, a neoconservative authority on everything to do with international relations, once noted that ‘I cannot forecast to you the action of China. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. For some this lack of certainty is all the more reason to keep on deciphering the China puzzle, but to me it is time to reflect on the ways China knowledge has been produced.

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