Rebranding China

9781503606838: Hardback
Release Date: 15th January 2019

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 176

Edition: 1st Edition

Series Studies in Asian Security

Stanford University Press

Rebranding China

Contested Status Signaling in the Changing Global Order

Hardback / £54.00

China is intensely conscious of its status, both at home and abroad. This concern is often interpreted as an undivided desire for higher standing as a global leader. Yet, Chinese political elites heatedly debate the nation's role as it becomes an increasingly important player in international affairs. At times, China positions itself not as a nascent global power but as a fragile developing country. Contradictory posturing makes decoding China's foreign policy a challenge, generating anxiety and uncertainty in many parts of the world. Using the metaphor of rebranding to understand China's varying displays of status, Xiaoyu Pu analyzes a rising China's challenges and dilemmas on the global stage.

As competing pressures mount across domestic, regional, and international audiences, China must pivot between different representational tactics. Rebranding China demystifies how the state represents its global position by analyzing recent military transformations, regional diplomacy, and international financial negotiations. Drawing on a sweeping body of research, including original Chinese sources and interdisciplinary ideas from sociology, psychology, and international relations, this book puts forward an innovative framework for interpreting China's foreign policy.

Contents and Abstracts
chapter abstract

This chapter provides an overview of the research question, key concepts, and research design of the book. China has been sending contradictory signals about its status and role in the twenty-first century, sometimes emphasizing its great power status and other times presenting itself as a fragile developing country. Instead of focusing on China's struggle for more recognition as a great power, the book suggests that China is facing a more complicated challenge of international image projection. China's future challenge will be to manage its conflicting roles and images in ways that advance its national interests while not engendering dangerous misperceptions and expectations among its neighbors and the rest of the global community. This book takes a multimethod approach, including case studies, content analysis, and interviews.

2Status Signaling in International Relations
chapter abstract

This chapter discusses the theoretical framework of status signaling in international politics. Status signaling is the use of a particular subset of signals to convey the information that a state is asserting a particular standing in international society. In a general sense, status signaling is the mechanism of information transmission that aims to change or maintain a special type of status belief among relevant political actors. Each audience is different, so an emerging power sends different status signals. There are various means through which the national leaders can signal the preferred status of their nation. This chapter identifies strategies and tactics of status signaling: conspicuous consumption, conspicuous giving, and strategic spinning.

3China on the World Stage: Multiple Audiences, Competing Expectations
chapter abstract

This chapter describes China's multiple identities and audiences in detail. China's identities include that of socialist country, developing country, both emerging and established great power, and quasi superpower, and its audiences include the domestic, regional, global South, and Western domains. While China certainly intends to build a positive image, the country has multiple incentives to project different images. This chapter illuminates the various motivations of China's signaling behaviors.

4Domestic Audience, Nationalism, and Weapons of Mass Consumption
chapter abstract

This chapter opens with a conceptual analysis of how China signals a higher status through conspicuous consumption in international relations. It then turns to the importance of domestic audience and nationalism. The chapter discusses China's aircraft carrier project and 2015 military parade, examining the underlying motivations and comparing the status signaling argument with competing approaches.

5Red Mask and White Mask: Charm Offensive, Selective Coercion, and China's Regional Diplomacy
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes China's competing images in regional diplomacy. China signaled a higher status as a regional leader through conspicuous giving in the Asian financial crisis, and China has strengthened its charm offensive strategy in recent years. However, China has also tried to defend its maritime claims through selective coercion. The two faces of China's regional diplomacy pose a challenge to regional order.

6Lying Low or Striving for Achievement: Global Financial Crisis and Spin Doctoring in Beijing
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes China's strategic spinning during the global financial crisis. Facing two types of global audiences (the global South and the West), China sometimes highlights its profile as an emerging great power and other times downplays its profile by emphasizing its developing country status. A developing country status serves multiple purposes for China. Targeting the West, signaling a developing country status sends a reassuring message, and it allows China to shirk greater international responsibilities. Targeting the global South, signaling a developing country status plays the solidarity card. The tension between China's great power status and its identity of developing country is bound to increase as China seeks a new role in the twenty-first century.

chapter abstract

The concluding chapter summarizes the findings and implications for China's foreign policy, status politics, and signaling in international relations more broadly. Applying the analytical framework of status signaling, the chapter also provides a preliminary analysis of Xi Jinping's foreign policy in a new era.

Xiaoyu Pu is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is also a Public Intellectuals Program Fellow with the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

"Xiaoyu Pu has written an original, insightful and creative book. Rebranding China elegantly explains China's otherwise contradictory images of itself as both a greatpower and a developing state."

M. Taylor Fravel
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"In Rebranding China, Xiaoyu Pu offers an innovative and insightful analysis of the various and often contradictory ways that a rising China portrays itself on the international stage. This is a must read for anyone interested in China's foreign relations and China's domestic political development in the reform era."

Thomas J. Christensen
Columbia University

"Xiaoyu Pu offers a thoughtful analysis of China's competing status-signaling behavior while at the same time advancing the study of status to new and exciting territories."

T. V. Paul, James McGill Professor of International Relations
McGill University