Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Yan Sun

Subject Categories

International Relations | Political Science


Foreign Policy, National Identity, Peaceful Internationalism, the Rise of China


In this dissertation, I employ the concept of national identity to explain China's foreign policy behavior during the history of the People's Republic of China. Specifically, I propose the concept of "peaceful internationalism" to characterize the behavioral orientation of China in the post-Mao era. Peaceful internationalism as both an idea and a policy, aims at a cross-national framework for cooperation and co-existence through non-conflictual, non-hegemonic and non-unilateral mechanisms of dispute resolution. This study argues that China pursues peaceful internationalism in a liberal international order, which is consistent with its contemporary national identity, which I term the "phoenix rising" identity. This identity has three roots: the Confucian identity, the victimhood identity and the identity of revolutionary internationalism. As an analytical category, the "phoenix rising" identity captures China's contemporary national identity, highlighting the rebirth and renewal of China's past identities in addition to China's experience of integrating into the world community during the post-Mao era. It shares the values of non-intervention, non-hegemony and equality among powers and serves as a framework for understanding China's foreign policy behavior in contemporary times.

In the dissertation, according to the ideas and policies embedded in China's peaceful internationalism, China's resurgence will undermine certain special rights and privileges the U.S. enjoys. But essentially, peaceful internationalism and American-led liberal internationalism share many fundamental principles, such as the market economy, inter-state cooperation and international institutions. In order to maintain world peace and stability, the system must guarantee the survival and coexistence of states, strong or weak, in a system of sovereign states. My work provides little evidence that a rising China exploits its own unequal power over subordinate states through alliance systems or imperial systems, or that it will move to balance against the United States in the twentieth-first century.