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China: The Pessoptimist Nation

William A. Callahan will speak on how the rise of China presents various long-term challenges to the world.

May 9, 2011 4:00pm to 5:30pm

You can view the video of the talk on the USCI Website or on the USCI YouTube Channel

The rise of China presents a long-term challenge to the world not only economically, but also politically and culturally. Callahan will argue that we need to employ new Chinese sources and innovative analysis to see how Chinese people understand their new place in the world. The heart of Chinese foreign policy is not a security dilemma, but an identity dilemma where Chinese identity emerges through the interplay of positive and negative feelings: China thus is the pessoptimist nation. This positive/negative dynamic intertwines China's domestic and international politics because national security is closely linked to nationalist insecurities. This interactive view of China's pessoptimist identity politics means that academics and policy-makers need to rethink the role of the state and public opinion in Beijing's foreign policy-making. Callahan will also talk about his current research project that examines what China’s popular futurologists think about the U.S. and the wider world, and what this means for U.S. policy toward China.

William A. Callahan is Chair Professor of International Politics and China Studies at the University of Manchester, and Co-Director of the British Inter-University China Centre, Oxford University. His recent book, China: The Pessoptimist Nation (Oxford, 2010), examines the relation of identity and security in China’s economic, political and cultural challenge to the world. In 2010/11 he holds a Leverhulme Research Fellowship to explore how Chinese opinion-makers and policy-makers talk about China’s future and the world’s future. More generally, Callahan’s research explores the interplay between ideas and policy, and the dynamic relationship of culture and politics. His co-edited book, China Orders the World: Normative Soft Power and Foreign Policy (Johns Hopkins), which includes chapters from Chinese and Western experts, is out this Autumn.

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