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China’s Global Identity: Considering the Responsibilities of a Great Power, Hoo Tiang Boon

Reviewed by Andrew Scobell

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In an era of heightened great-power competition when attention is focused on how to respond to a China that is seen as threatening, it is easy to overlook that the overriding issue regarding a rising China used to be how Beijing could be fully integrated into the international system. But no matter the geopolitical climate, being informed on the domestic discourse about China’s great-power future is valuable.

Within China, there has long been a serious debate about what kind of great power the country ought to be. Tiang Boon Hoo’s professed goal is to understand “how and why China has come to pursue an identity as a responsible great power [or ‘RGP’]” (p. 162). The author charts the evolution of elite RGP discourse across the decades, including tracing the origins of Chinese thinking before 1949 to illuminate the discourse on the future of China as a modern great power predating the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Hoo then proceeds to identify three different narratives about how China should approach the responsibilities of becoming a great power across the 70-year history of the PRC. The first narrative, the “internationalist,” fully embraces RGP status and strongly supports China taking on g

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