On Chinas Modern Foreign Policy Through the Prism of the Concepts of Dao and Shi

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-2-78-92
Song Zhihao, szhihao@mail.ru
Institute of China and Contemporary Asia, Russian Academy of Sciences, 32, Nakhimovskii Prosp., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation.

Received 10.10.2022. Revised 27.10.2022. Accepted 01.12.2022.

Acknowledgements. The research work was funded by China Scholarship Council (CSC).

Abstract. China’s diplomatic approach under Xi Jinping is notably distinct from previous eras. Instead of pursuing the road of peaceful development, China appears to have abandoned its self-positioning as a “ancient civilized country” and has grown increasingly aggressive in the international community. Western academics and journalists have even coined the term “war wolf diplomacy” to characterize this trend. However, the author contends that this transformation is unavoidable since China is in the process of discovering itself, which implies that it is modifying its foreign policy in response to the genuine demands of its own development, defining its diplomatic “dao”. One of the most significant aspects in this procedure is the “shi” and only by accurately assessing, following, and planning the “shi” can the aforementioned duties be completed more effectively and finally achieve the aim of successful rising. In this paper, the author not only discusses classical Chinese philosophical writings in order to select key points from the sages’ thought for analyzing and explaining modern Chinese foreign policy, but also demonstrates some of the more successful theoretical constructions of the Chinese school of international relations theory. The author begins the first part by debating the “Way of the King” and “hegemony strategy”, pointing out that currently China’s foreign policy applies both concepts, with the former principle assisting China in implementing the fundamental principal of “not solving international problems by force”. While the “hegemonic” strategy is largely utilized to give a powerful reaction to external challenges, as indicated by the rising number of (counter)sanctions imposed in recent years. The author wants to present a reasonable explanation for China’s change in foreign policy style in the second half of the paper. According to him, this change represents a sound strategic decision by the Chinese leadership to “act in line with the ‘shi’”. However, because the transformation is still in its early stages, it is not yet feasible to foresee the eventual conclusion, therefore the overall trend in China’s foreign policy today should be judged in a way that does not unnecessarily laud or discredit it.

Keywords: China, period of Xi Jinping, China’s foreign policy, traditional ideological-political values, the Way (dao), configurations of power (shi), the “Way of the King” (wangdao), the “hegemony” strategy (badao)


1. Xi Jinping’s Speech at the Plenary Session of the 23rd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (full text). Website of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Russian Federation. 08.06.2019. (In Chin.) Available at: http://ru.china-embassy.gov.cn/ztbd/xjpfe/201910/t20191017_3104953.htm08.06.2019 (accessed 23.11.2022).

2. Karneev A.N. The Significance and Meaning of the Formula for Russian-Chinese Strategic Cooperation “in the New Era”. RIAC, 11.02.2021. (In Russ.) Available at: https://russiancouncil.ru/analytics-and-comments/analytics/znachenie-i-smysl-formuly-rossiysko-kitayskogo-strategicheskogo-sotrudnichestva-v-novuyu-epokhu/ (accessed 24.10.2022).

3. Jin Yingzhong. Symbiotic International Community and China’s Peaceful Development. International Review, 2012, no. 4, pp. 43-49. (In Chin.)

4. Yang Jiemian. On the Theories of Foreign Policy for China’s Ongoing Transformation into a Global Great Power: Their Mission and Focus. World Economies and Politics, 2013, no. 5, pp. 4-14. (In Chin.)

5. Hu Shoujun. A Theory of International Symbiosis. International Review, 2012, no. 4, pp. 35-42. (In Chin.)

6. Cai Liang. Symbiotic International System and “Dao”, “Shu”, “Shi” of China’s Foreign Policy. International Review, 2014, no. 1, pp. 52-62. (In Chin.)

7. Hu Jintao. Steadfastly Advancing along the Road of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects. Report at the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Beijing, People’s Publishing House, 2012. 57 p. (In Chin.)

8. Meng-zi. Translated from Chinese by V.S. Kolokolov. St. Petersburg, Peterburgskoe vostokovedenie, 1999. 272 p. (In Russ.)

9. Shang Yang. The Book of Lord Shang. Translated from Chinese by L.S. Perelomov. Moscow, Ladomir, 1993. 392 p. (In Russ.)

10. Burov V.G., Vyatkin R.V., Titarenko M.L., eds. Ancient Chinese Philosophy. Vol. 2. Moscow, Mysl’, 1973. 384 p. (In Russ.)

11. Zhang Rongming. The New “Way of the King” – The Strategy of China’s State Development. Journal of Tianjin Normal University (Social Science), 2015, no. 1, pp. 6-10. (In Chin.)

12. Sima Qian. Records of the Grand Historian. Vol. 8. Translated from Chinese by R.V. Vyatkin and A.M. Karapetiants, Moscow, Vostochnaya literatura, 2002. 510 p. (In Russ.)

13. Jin Fenglin. The Historical End of Hegemonic Politics and the Sail of Kingly Politics. Journal of CCPS (CAG), 2020, no. 6, pp. 78-87. (In Chin.)

14. Pu Xiaoyou, Gill B., Zuenko I.Y., Lomanov A.V., Vee Song Lak. “Any Country, if Cornered, will Fight”. Russia in Global Affairs, 2022, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 208-229. (In Russ.). DOI: 10.31278/1810-6439-2022-20-5-208-229

15. Yan Xuetong. Leadership and the Rise of Great Power. Princeton and Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2019. 260 p.

16. Fang Jiongsheng. “Limited Counterattack”: China’s Economic Sanctions since 2010. Foreign Affairs Review, 2020, no. 1, pp. 65-87. (In Chin.)

17. Kissinger H. On China. New York, The Penguin Press, 2011. 586 p.

18. Burov V.G., Vyatkin R.V., Titarenko M.L., eds. Ancient Chinese Philosophy. Vol. 1. Moscow, Mysl’, 1972. 363 p. (In Russ.)

19. Sunzi. The Art of War. Translated from Chinese by V.V. Malyavin. Moscow, AST Publishers, 2022. 288 p. (In Russ.)

20. Malyavin V.V. The Configurations of Force (shi) in Chinese Cultural Tradition (Focusing on Martial Arts). Far Eastern Studies, 2022, no. 4, pp. 144-159. (In Russ.) DOI: 10.31857/S013128120021165-2

21. Pan Zhongqi. An Analysis of “Shi” and Its Unique Value for Understanding International Politics and China’s Diplomacy. International Review, 2020, no. 1, pp. 69-100. (In Chin.)

22. Qin Yaqing. Chinese Culture and Its Implications for Foreign Policy-Making. China International Studies, 2011, no. 5, pp. 21-33. (In Chin.)

23. Grachikov E.N. Chinese School of International Relations: On the Way to Big Theories. Moscow, Aspect Press Ltd, 2021. 304 p. (In Russ.)

24. Laozi. Tao Te Ching. Translated from Chinese by Yang Xingshun. Moscow, Medkov S.B. Publisher, 2019. 192 p. (In Russ.)

25. Guiguzi. The Complete Treatises of Guiguzi. Beijing, Thread-Binding Books Publishing House, 2008. 1002 p. (In Chin.)

26. Selected Works of Mao Zedong on Diplomacy. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Research Center on Party Literature of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Beijing, Central Party Literature Press, 1994. 658 p. (In Chin.)

27. Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping. Editorial Committee on Party Literature of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Vol. 3. Beijing, People’s Publishing House, 1993. 418 p. (In Chin.)

28. Zhang Zhizhou. “Shi” in International Politics. International Forum, 2008, no. 5, pp. 37-43. (In Chin.)

29. Hu Jintao’s Report at the 17th Party Congress (Full Text). 26.10.2007. (In Chin.) Available at: http://www.scio.gov.cn/37231/Document/1566887/1566887.htm (accessed 20.09.2022).

30. Pan Zhongqi. China’s Changing Image and Engagement in World Order in Sujian Guo and Jean-Marc Blanchard, eds. Harmonious World and China’s New Foreign Policy. New York/Lexington, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008, pp. 39-63.

31. Excerpts from Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Great Power Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics. Party History Research and Documents Research Institute of the CPC Central Committee. Beijing, Central Party Literature Press, 2020. 282 p. (In Chin.)

32. Pan Zhongqi et al. Classical Chinese Concepts on International Relations. Shanghai, Shanghai People’s Publishing House, 2021. 536 p. (In Chin.)

33. Yang Jiechi. Promoting the Building of the Community of Human Destiny. People’s Daily, 26.11.2021, p. 6. (In Chin.)

34. Feng Weijiang. On Major Country Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era: Vision, Planning and Practice. Global Review, 2018, no. 10, pp. 13-28. (In Chin.)

35. Men Honghua. Building a New Layout of China’s Diplomatic Strategy for the Future. Exploration and Free Views, 2022, no. 1, pp. 43-50. (In Chin.)

36. Wang Fan. The Future of China–U.S. Relations: Toward a “New Cold War” or the Restart of Strategic Cooperation? China International Studies, 2021, no. 1, pp. 55-68. (In Chin.)

37. Buzan B. China in International Society: Is “Peaceful Rise” Possible? The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 2010, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 5-36.

38. Lukyanov F.A. The First Level in Dense Layers. Russia in Global Affairs, 14.09.2022. (In Russ.) Available at: https://globalaffairs.ru/articles/pervaya-stupen/ (accessed 23.09.2022).


1. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Answers Questions from Chinese and Foreign Journalists on China’s Foreign Policy. Website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China. 07.03.2022. (In Chin.) Available at: https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/wjbzhd/202203/t20220307_10649045.shtml07.03.2022 (accessed 23.11.2022).

2. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi Answers Questions from Chinese and Foreign Journalists on China’s Foreign Policy and Foreign Relations. Xinhuanet, 25.05.2020. (In Chin.) Available at: http://www.xinhuanet.com/politics/2020-05/25/c_1126027267.htm (accessed 25.10.2022).

3. The Great Epidemic and the Great Change Call for Great Unity and Great Action – Keynote Speech at the Third Forum on the International Influence of Chinese Think Tanks and the Sixth Academic Symposium on the Construction of New Think Tanks. Xinhuanet, 05.12.2020. (In Chin.) Available at: http://www.xinhuanet.com/world/2020-12/05/c_1126825979.htm (accessed 25.10.2022).

4. Ministry of Commerce Order No. 4 of 2020. The List of Unreliable Entities Provides. 19.09.2020. (In Chin.) Available at: http://www.mofcom.gov.cn/article/b/fwzl/202009/20200903002593.shtml (accessed 20.09.2022).

5. Annual Report on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China, 2002. U. S. Department of Defense. Available at: https://oregondigital.org/sets/easia/oregondigital:df72cx47p#page/1/mode/1up (accessed 20.09.2022).

6. Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century. Beijing, People’s Publishing House, 2021. 90 p. (In Chin.)

7. The Fourth Press Conference was Held in the Press Center of the 20th National Congress of the CPC. People’s Daily Online, 21.10.2022. (In Chin.) Available at: http://cpc.people.com.cn/20th/n1/2022/1021/c448334-32548750.html (accessed 25.10.2022). 

For citation:
Song Zhihao On Chinas Modern Foreign Policy Through the Prism of the Concepts of Dao and Shi. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2023, vol. 67, no. 2, pp. 78-92. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2023-67-2-78-92 EDN: YDDACJ

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 6
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • The “Pivot to Asia”: AUKUS in the Perception of American Politicum
  • The Collapse of the European Collective Security System
  • Public Investment and Sustainability of World Economy
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Trends, Proportions and Factors of Development
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.