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China’s Rise and “Responsibility” in the 21st Century

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/07/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>British Journal of Chinese Studies
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)40-60
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In recent decades ‘responsibility’ has become a prominent idea in international political discourse. Against this backdrop, international policy and scholarly communities contemplating China’s rise regularly as “whether, when, and how” China will become a “responsible” great power. This article reviews, unpacks and questions understandings of responsibility in the debates about China. One strand of these debates argue that China can become responsible by adopting and promoting the existing status quo; the other argues that China acts responsibly when it challenges the unfair hegemony of the status quo. This article argues that both of these debates operate with a remarkably similar understanding of responsibility. Whether China adopts existing rules and norms, or whether it establishes rules and norms of its own, responsibility is understood to be rule and norm compliance. The article explores the possibility of an alternative understanding of responsibility suggested by Derrida. It is argued that a Derridian approach does not dispense with rules and norms, but is conscious of the irresolvable dilemma when faced with the demands of multiple others. Such an understanding is helpful insofar as it reminds those who would call for responsibility that such responsibility, and politics itself, is more than simply following rules and maintenance of norms.