In Search of a Chinese School: Ghostly encounters with the parochial/global discipline of international relations

  • Linsay Cunningham-Cross

Student thesis: Phd


In search of a Chinese School: Ghostly encounters with the parochial/globaldiscipline of international relationsThis thesis explores recent trends in Chinese international relations scholarship from the perspective of post-colonial and critical international relations theory. It begins by interrogating the now widespread view that 'the discipline' of international relations is profoundly Eurocentric. The claim to parochialism in international relations discourse is explained and substantiated through a critical re-reading of enduring myths in international relations discourse, which shape not only what we know to be international relations but how we mightknow it and who indeed the 'we' is that does the knowing.This research adopts a methodology of ghost hunting inspired by Avery Gordon's work on ghosts and hauntings in the sociological imagination (Gordon 2008). It follows the meandering trail of a ghostly journey through international relations discourse, telling of multiple and conflicting encounters between Chinese international relations and the wider parochial/global discipline. In particular it examines recent debates surrounding the need for a distinctively Chinese approach to international relations research: a Chinese School of IR.Debates about the place of Chinese international relations research in the wider (parochial/global) discipline remain the focus of this research project. A close (re)reading of these debates reveals the many ways in which Chinese international relations discourse actively constructs 'the discipline' of international relations, singing it into life, whilst simultaneously unsettling the myths that make international relations possible.These trends are explored further through the use of two case studies of leading scholars - Yan Xuetong and Qin Yaqing - and the enduring debate between them (and between Chinese scholars in general) over whether or not China needs its own theory of international relations. The work of these two individuals has had a huge impact on wider trends within and about Chinese international relations.The thesis concludes with a return to the question of identity in international relations discourse and questions who is Chinese in the Chinese School and what are the implications of constructing 'Chineseness' through international relations discourse. I argue that the Chinese School project is perhaps best understood as an expression of contemporary Chinese nationalism.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCristina Masters (Supervisor)


  • Yan Xuetong
  • Chinese School
  • international relations theory
  • China
  • myths
  • ghosts
  • Qin Yaqing

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