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Contextualising the ‘Assertive China’ Narrative

Article written by Neja Štrukelj (

A number of events in the recent years have resulted crucial for the transformation of the public understanding of China’s governmentality and the country’s foreign policy. These events, ranging from an array of maritime territorial disputes between China and its neighbouring countries, the country becoming the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in 2012, Xi Jinping’s 习近平 new development strategy known as ‘One Belt, One Road (Yidai yilu 一代一路) coupled with the official launching of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or AIIB (Yazhou jichu sheshi touzi yinhang 亚洲基础设施投资银行) and the recent military parade held in Beijing, seem to have prompted a revival of the ‘China threat’ debate which is highly reminiscent of the ‘Yellow Peril’ hysteria of the 19th and early 20th centuries and, perhaps even more so, of the Cold-War mentality and the containment strategy that characterised it.

The so-called ‘assertive China discourse’ is founded on the general belief that China’s foreign policy has been undergoing a significant transformation, especially from 2012 onwards. The widely accepted notion of Xi Jinping’s China growing ever more assertive with respect to its international relations is supported by the fact that China’s foreign policy has, in fact, experienced a shift under the Xi-Li administration.

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