The Postmodern Clue: Defining China as an Alterity

  • Chih-yu Shih
Part of the Comparative Perspectives on Modern Asia book series (CPMA)


China being a sovereign state means something quite different (potentially to anyone) from, say, the United States being a sovereign state. The difference in meaning is however indescribable if we adhere to realist or liberal traditions of political science. The state as a sovereign agency was an unchallenged ontological component in the IR literature before the 1990s. Even the allegedly reformist constructivism, in response to poststructuralist challenges, “depressingly” maintains that the state is an integral part of the ontology of IR studies,1 although it granted that human cognition is involved in the construction of this ontology. The notoriously simplified form of the state shared among realists, liberals, and constructivists, with the assumption of the state being self-consistent at any given point of time, cannot help but rely on epistemological devices to absorb other forms of existence that are neither statist nor self-consistent. Applying Emmanuel Lavina’s wisdom, I call these forms “alterities of international relations,” referring to forms of existence that are beyond the theorization based upon the notion of “international relations.”


Chinese People American People Sovereign State Chinese State Chinese Intellectual 
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© Chih-yu Shih 2003

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  • Chih-yu Shih

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