Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2008

The Chinese Meaning of Just War and Its Impact on the Foreign Policy of the People’s Republic of China

Nadine Godehardt

September 2008

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


The image of China's peaceful rise, which the Chinese government is keen to enforce in the world, stands in contrast to the view of China's ascent as a threat. China's economic and military growth is perceived as a potential threat to the (East) Asian security structure and as a challenge to the preponderance of the United States. Even though the PRC is more active in international and regional organizations­and better integrated in the international community­than ever before, the ambiguity of China's true political intentions is still dominant. The focus of this analysis is the Chinese tradition of Just War and its benefits for an enhanced understanding of contemporary Chinese foreign policy. The tradition of Just War has rarely been studied, but the search for an understanding of Just War in Chinese traditional thinking can, nevertheless, assist in the analysis of China's current foreign policy. Whether China's foreign policy is benign or malignant or whether China dominates Asia is, therefore, "profoundly uncertain." With regard to foreign policy analysis, the differentiation between the regional and the international levels might help to transcend the predominant understanding of Chinese foreign policy in international relations theory.