Hegemony and Power Transitions: Using an Adapted World-Systems Approach to Understand China's Role in Contemporary World Order.

Lead Research Organisation: Aberystwyth University
Department Name: International Politics


There are competing interpretations of China's emerging role in the world-system. Some view China as a revisionist power, structurally differentiated from the west. Others see China as a status quo power operating within, and benefitting from the U.S. led liberal world economic order. Within this split interpretation of Chinese positionality with regards to its international relations, there are then further debates as to the structural reality of Chinese power and its ability to become the dominant force in global politics.
Running alongside these mainstream analyses are a new set of theories emerging from globalisation discourse. These theories, which are of diverse origin, challenge the traditional state centric presentation of international relations and point our attention to the emergence of new transnational forces. Such theories destabilise traditional analysis that focus analysis on states as principle actors and effective agents with real power.
In my research I suggest that world-systems theory is still an appropriate starting point for understanding international relations. I will attempt to show that world-systems theories, ideas of system, interconnection and hierarchical arrangements of power structured through nation state apparatus are the best starting point for understanding the positionality of China. However I will also argue that world-systems theory is limited by a certain conceptual overdetermination. Concepts such as hegemony, core, periphery and semi-periphery are too loose and not analytically complex enough to produce accurate portrayals of complex realities.
In light of the shortcoming of world-systems theory I propose to produce an adapted conceptual framework more suited to understanding international dynamics. Dynamics that are paradoxically both highly integrated and highly disaggregated.

Keywords: Hegemony, World-systems theory, China, globalisation, power transfer.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2482462 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2020 30/09/2023 Lewis Birley