Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 10/2014

Examining China's Assertiveness through the Eyes of Chinese IR Scholars

Huiyun Feng, Kai He

September 2014

S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies


China’s assertive diplomacy in recent years has ignited intense debates among International Relations (IR) scholars. Some argue that China’s assertive behavior is rooted in its perception of increasing power and capabilities. Others suggest that it is U.S. policies that triggered China’s assertive reactions. Relying on an original survey of China’s IR scholars conducted in Beijing in 2013 and using structural equation modeling (SEM), we empirically examine Chinese IR scholars’ attitude towards Chinese power versus the United States, their perceptions of U.S. policy in Asia, and their preference for an assertive Chinese foreign policy. We find that both the power perception and policy reaction arguments make sense in accounting for Chinese IR scholars’ attitude regarding China’s assertive diplomacy. However, our research suggests that a more pessimistic view on Chinese power is more likely to be associated with a preference for an assertive foreign policy.