G4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Warring states and harmonized nations : tianxia theory as a world political argument (2020)

Puranen, M. (2020). Warring states and harmonized nations : tianxia theory as a world political argument [Doctoral dissertation]. Jyväskylän yliopisto. JYU dissertations, 247. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-8218-8

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Puranen, Matti

eISBN: 978-951-39-8218-8

Journal or series: JYU dissertations

eISSN: 2489-9003

Publication year: 2020

Number in series: 247

Number of pages in the book: 205

Publisher: Jyväskylän yliopisto

Place of Publication: Jyväskylä

Publication country: Finland

Publication language: English

Persistent website address: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-8218-8

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Open Access channel


The purpose of this study is to examine Chinese foreign policy by analyzing Chinese visions and arguments on the nature of world politics. The study focuses on Chinese academic discussions, which attempt to develop a ’Chinese theory of international politics’, and especially on the so called ’tianxia theory’ (天下论, tianxia lun), which is one of the most influential initiatives within these discussions. Tianxia theorists study imperial China’s traditional system of foreign relations and claim that the current international order, which is based on competing nation states, should be replaced with some kind of world government that would oversee the good of the whole planet. The dissertation relies on the constructivist framework proposed by Alexander Wendt, in which the essence of world politics is not determined by material factors or unchanging national interests, but instead, is to a large degree socially constructed by the main actors of the order. Ideas – riding on the wings of material power – are the central force, which transforms international orders. Against this framework the dissertation understands theories of world politics as such transforming ideas as they influence and limit the way we understand political reality. Following Kari Palonen’s understanding of politics, the study approaches tianxia theory as an argument in the ongoing debates, which deal with the nature of world politics; as a rhetorical device, which is criticizing and delegitimizing the existing ‘liberal international order’ and its ‘Western values’. In the wider context, tianxia theory is approached in the dissertation as a part of China’s overall rhetorical offensive for developing Chinese soft power and for reinterpreting the grand narrative of world politics according to, allegedly, Chinese concepts. Besides academic discussions the study examines how ideas from the tianxia theory find their place in the official Chinese foreign policy argumentation in the public speeches of President Xi Jinping. In its form, the study is a mixture between a traditional monograph and an article based dissertation. During the research process, various independent research articles were written and published, or presented as conference papers. These papers have been reworked and transformed into a monograph form, which has three analytical chapters. The chapters approach the topic from different angles, and which apply slightly different methodological tools, but are unified in their interest in tianxia theory and the concept of tianxia.

Keywords: international politics; foreign policy; international relations; international system; Western countries; Orient; political theory; world order; world view; world history; nation-state; hegemony; history

Free keywords: China; Chinese foreign policy; world politics; theory of international relations; tianxia theory; Community of shared future for mankind

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

Last updated on 2022-19-08 at 19:37