Prof. Dr. Dr. Nele Noesselt


Prof. Dr. Dr. Nele Noesselt
Chair, Political Science with a special focus on China/East Asia



DFG-Project NOESSELT (2014-2017)


Configurations of Governance and Development Paths in the Studies of Chinese Political Scientists

The internal policy debates of closed systems, such as the China (PRC), and the interplay between political leaders and political scientists are still an underresearched domain of Chinese politics. The analysis of Chinese politics is often restricted to the visible dimension of political actions and speech acts. The underlying considerations and reflections that shape the political decision-making process and guide political action are often neglected.The research project tries to overcome these lacunae by conducting a systematic analysis of Chinese political science debates on modes of governing and development paths of the PRC. Given the interrelation of political science and politics in the PRC, one could expect that these debates, first of all, fulfill a legitimating, confirmative function. However, a closer look at the current constellations shows that the Chinese political elites are well aware that reforms are necessary for the persistence and restabilization of the political system. Encouraged by the political authorities, Chinese political scientists have started to develop abstract ideas of political governance and economic development, which aim at a re-organization and (!) restabilization of one party rule. They eclectically combine elements of Chinese traditions, observations of other political regimes and strategic calculations. Currently, the field of political science in China reminds one of hundred contending schools, it is no longer dominated by one single unified ideologically inspired research approach.The time frame under research can be subdivided into two periods: 2002-2012 (period in office of Hu Jintao) and 2012-2015 (the first years of the new administration). The project will identify the central themes and ideas that prevail in Chinese political science debates. Furthermore, it will investigate the factors and channels, which catalyze the integration of these ideas into policymaking. Following a nested design-approach (Liebermann 2005), the analytical frame integrates elements of qualitative and quantitative analysis, process tracing and comparative approaches (Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis).The research project contributes to the basic understanding of modern Chinese political philosophy, the mechanisms of politics in contemporary China and learning processes of authoritarian regimes. It initiates a dialogue between Modern Chinese Studies and Political Science. The project has also implications for the sector of policy advice and political consultation: It outlines the central ideas of the political science debates that might guide and determine Chinese politics in the years to come.

“Chinese School” of IR and Chinese Models of World Order

Based on academic debates among political scientists in China, this project outlines basic structures and guiding principles of Chinese foreign policy. In particular, it focuses on the Chinese discussion on the possibility or even necessity to construct a "theory of International Relations (IR) with Chinese characteristics". The analysis of these scientific discussions allows insights into the ideas and principles underlying China's foreign policy behaviour. Most importantly, it also illustrates the function of IR theory as a key element of a nation's international positioning strategy in general. The analysis of the inner-Chinese IR discussion provides not only insights into China's global strategy, but also into China's ongoing nation-building programme.


Publications (selection):

Noesselt, Nele (2016), Mapping the world from a Chinese perspective?, in: Zhang, Yongjin/Chang, Teng-chi (eds.) (2016), Constructing a Chinese School of International Relations: Ongoing debates and sociological realities. London; New York: Routledge, 98-112.

This edited volume offers arguably the first systemic and critical assessment of the debates about and contestations to the construction of a putative Chinese School of IR as sociological realities in the context of China’s rapid rise to a global power status.

Contributors to this volume scrutinize a particular approach to worlding beyond the West as a conscious effort to produce alternative knowledge in an increasingly globalized discipline of IR. Collectively, they grapple with the pitfalls and implications of such intellectual creativity drawing upon local traditions and concerns, knowledge claims, and indigenous sources for the global production of knowledge of IR. They also consider critically how such assertions of Chinese voices and articulation of their ambition for theoretical innovation from the disciplinary margins contribute to the emergence of a Global IR as a truly inclusive discipline that recognizes its multiple and diverse foundations.

Reflecting the varied perspectives of both the active participants in the Chinese School of IR debates within China and the observers and critics outside China, this work will be of great interest to students and scholars of IR theory, Non-Western IR and Chinese Studies.

Nele Noesselt (2010), Alternative Weltordnungsmodelle? IB-Diskurse in China. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.

Die innerchinesische Auseinandersetzung mit Modellen der Internationalen Beziehungen und die Konzeption alternativer Ordnungsvorstellungen sind in der westlichsprachigen Literatur bislang noch nicht aufgearbeitet worden. Damit schließt das Buch eine Lücke im Bereich der IB-Forschung, die sich bislang weitgehend auf westliche Modellentwürfe beschränkt, bietet aber auch dem Sinologen und dem an China interessierten Leser Einblick in diejenigen strategischen Diskurse, die der Ausgestaltung der chinesischen Außenpolitik und der Selbstpositionierung Chinas im Weltgeschehen unterliegen.

Nele Noesselt (2015), Revisiting the Debate on Constructing a Theory of International Relations with Chinese Characteristics, in: The China Quarterly, 222, 430-448.

After decades of policy learning and adoption of “Western” theories of international politics, the Chinese academic community has (re-)turned to the construction of a “Chinese” theory framework. This article examines the recent academic debates on theory with “Chinese characteristics” and sheds light on their historical and philosophical foundations. It argues that the search for a “Chinese” paradigm of international relations theory is part of China's quest for national identity and global status. As can be concluded from the analysis of these debates, “Chinese” theories of international politics are expected to fulfil two general functions – to safeguard China's national interests and to legitimize the one-party system.