Chinese Exceptionalism in the Intellectual World of China's Foreign Policy

China across the Divide: The Domestic and Global in Politics and Society

Author/s (editor/s):

Feng Zhang

Publication year:


Publication type:

Book chapter

Find this publication at:
Oxford University Press

Feng Zhang, ‘Chinese Exceptionalism in the Intellectual World of China’s Foreign Policy’, in Rosemary Foot, ed., China across the Divide: The Domestic and Global in Politics and Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 43-71.

Although exceptionalism is an important dimension of China’s foreign policy, it has not been a subject of serious scholarly research. This chapter examines the manifestations and sources of contemporary Chinese exceptionalism and explains its implications for foreign policy. Chinese exceptionalism is defined by great power reformism, benevolent pacifism, and harmonious inclusionism. While resting on an important factual basis, it is constructed by mixing facts with myths through selective use of China’s vast historical and cultural experiences. Exceptionalism does not determine policy, but by being an essential part of the worldview of the Chinese government and many intellectuals, it can become an important source for policy ideas and can shape and constrain policy choice. It can further be seen as a normative theory for China’s foreign policy, as one among six major schools competing for ideational influence in China’s foreign policy formation.

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