Amy King and Wenting He explore the enduring concept of 'self-reliance' (zili gengsheng) in Chinese political discourse over a century.


The idea of ‘self-reliance’ (zili gengsheng) has endured in Chinese political discourse for nearly a century, transcending profound changes in China’s political, economic, and strategic circumstances. While ‘self-reliance’ is frequently misinterpreted as economic isolation or autarky, we instead show that ‘self-reliance’ has always been comprised of three interlocking pillars: autonomy, interdependence, and order-shaping. These three pillars sit in tension with one another, and yet have accommodated and co-existed with one another since the earliest articulations of the idea. Drawing on discursive institutionalism and its understanding of ‘ideational resilience’, we argue that this tripartite structure, replete with internal contradictions, has enabled Chinese leaders since the Republican era to reinterpret and usefully deploy the idea of ‘self-reliance’. Our findings underscore the resilience of key Chinese foreign economic policy ideas; and the ideational logic driving Xi Jinping’s apparently contradictory pursuit of ‘technological self-reliance’, open global markets, and greater connectivity with the developing world.


About the speakers

Amy King is an Associate Professor in the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University, and Deputy Director (Research) in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. She is the author of China-Japan Relations after World War Two: Empire, Industry and War, 1949-1971 (Cambridge University Press, 2016). The holder of an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship and a Westpac Research Fellowship, she leads a team researching China’s role in shaping the international economic order.

Wenting He is a PhD candidate in International Relations at The Australian National University. Her PhD project investigates how China’s ambiguous understanding of market-state relations has shaped its interpretations of economic crises and subsequent engagement with international economic order. Her recent publications unpack the constructive ambiguity of national interest in the context of U.S.-China relations.

About the chair

Wesley Widmaier is a Professor of International Relations at The Australian National University. His research addresses the interplay of wars, crises, and change – and the ways in which stability can cause instability, a concern that spans International Political Economy and International Security debates. He is the author of Presidential Rhetoric from Wilson to Obama: Constructing Crises, Fast and Slow (Routledge, 2015) and Economic Ideas in Political Time: The Rise and Fall of Economic Orders from the Progressive Era to the Global Financial Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Previously he was a Section Chair of the International Political Economy section of the International Studies Association.

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This seminar series is part of a research project on How China Shapes the International Economic Order, generously funded by the Westpac Scholars Trust and the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and led by A/Professor Amy King from the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.

Pacific states and peoples inside global climate change negotiations (UNFCCC COP): from consensus, coherence to ‘climate updated’

For more than 35 years Pacific islands’ states and peoples have led and shaped the global agenda in global climate change negotiations. This seminar will detail the multi-year research that traces, follows and works with Pacific states and peoples inside the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) annual Conference of the Parties. In utilising Global Talanoa (global political ethnography and talanoa) the research gives access inside the negotiations where the project has studied and provided research brokerage for leaders, state delegates and civil society in the negotiations over the years. Situated at the intersection and interplay of international politics and climate change, it follows the work of Pacific states from the Paris COP21 in 2015, to the recent Sharm El Sheik COP27 in 2022 – how they have held space in shaping and influencing the negotiations agenda. The ‘Pacific society’ of officials, diplomats, civil society, activists and leaders have not only help build, but also reach consensus on climate action. Moreover, the research explores the coherence of various regional mechanisms, political processes and coalitions Pacific states have established over the years to manage the negotiations. Through research brokerage and ‘climate updated’ the presentation provides insights to the future of negotiations – and the case for the Australia and Pacific Islands climate change COP.

NOTE: this is a hybrid seminar. For online attendance please sign up to receive the Zoom link.

The recording of the seminar is available below:

Event Speakers

George Carter is a Research Fellow in Geopolitics and Regionalism, at the Department of Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University (ANU).

While rentierism, tactical politics and coercion can come together to strengthen a regime, that is not necessarily a given. In the Iraq case, rentierism and effects from political decision-making led to an increased reliance on coercion by ruling regimes to maintain power.

Drawing upon literature on rentier state theory, the politics of survival, and the role of coercion in state consolidation as well as the author’s experience in Iraq, this thesis addresses the question of how resource dependency, elite strategies to gain or maintain control, and coercion have shaped state cohesion in Iraq?

Given the broad academic interest in the persistence of authoritarianism in different country contexts and the effects of international intervention, the contribution of this thesis is its integration of different theories to allow for a richer discussion regarding how elite competition and international intervention can impact state development.



John D. Moore
With over 20 years of experience across the Islamic world serving in a mix of development, security as well as energy sector roles, John’s research interests focus on the relationship between resource dependent economies, politics, security, and development outcomes.

Having first engaged on Iraq during the 1997-1998 period while with the US Department of Defense, he spent several years working on and living in the country during the 2003 – 2012 period. John is currently pursuing his doctoral degree, having earned a Masters Degree in Political Economy and International Security Studies from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the Virginia Military Institute.


Join via Zoom link
Meeting ID: 867 1834 3082
Password: 198184

Please join PhD candidate Geejay Milli as she provides an update during her research journey.

Please note that this is a hybrid event. For online attendance please sign up to obtain the Zoom link. Access link will be delivered via email one day prior to the event.

Women’s political representation in the Pacific has garnered much interest from researchers, international non-governmental and governmental organisations and civil society groups due to the low rates of female representation in national and sub-national politics. This seminar will introduce proposed research that will explore this issue in depth with a focus on Papua New Guinea. To better understand how women participate in political processes, this research will investigate two case studies, which include the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and the Motu Koita Assembly.

A parliament with low gender representation does not necessarily mean women are not active participants in politics. Often, a concentrated and sometimes biased focus is given to women’s political representation in parliaments, hence deeming as insignificant other important ways women participate in politics. The participation of women in politics is not one dimensional, rather the researcher argues that relegating women’s politicking and participation to ‘women only issues’ presents a restrictive view of the many other ways women are essential, valuable and influential in their immediate communities. Women are concerned with far more issues than just issues that impact gender.

Geejay Milli is a PhD student at the Department of Pacific Affairs from Papua New Guinea. Her research looks at the case studies of Bougainville and the Motu Koita Assembly with a focus on the participation of women in the political process. Her research area of interests includes politics and elections in Papua New Guinea, women's political participation and representation and the implementation of gender quotas in the Pacific. Prior to her studies, Geejay was teaching at the University of Papua New Guinea with the Political Science Department.

Event Speakers

Geejay Milli
PhD Scholar

Geejay Milli is a PhD student at the Department of Pacific Affairs from Papua New Guinea.

The Asia Pacific is predicted to have the greatest proportion of people already exposed and vulnerable to concurrent extreme weather events and the intensification of climate change-related security risks. What can we learn from Asia Pacific women’s regional networks in ensuring existing risk mapping and analyses are ‘fit for purpose’ as simultaneous catastrophes become endemic globally?

Drawing on feminist and postcolonial approaches, this research seeks to examine how and why women’s regional networks in the Asia Pacific develop distinct perspectives and practices in responding to a multiplicity of crises. In bringing women’s regional networks to bear on the existing scholarship and policy agenda on climate change, this research situates their significance within 1) a longer history of conceptualising women’s insecurity within a matrix of oppressions fuelled by capitalism, colonialism/imperialism, and nationalism; and 2) genealogy of political thought as ‘Third World’ women who have distinctly experienced, interpreted, resisted and theorised the global order.

Dr Maria Tanyag is a Research Fellow / Lecturer at the Department of International Relations at the ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, and a Resident Women, Peace and Security Fellow at Pacific Forum. Her most recent publications are Sexual Health and World Peace in the Routledge Handbook of Feminist Peace Research, and A Feminist Call to Be Radical: Linking Women’s Health and Planetary Health in the journal Politics & Gender. In 2020, Dr Tanyag was one of the contributing authors to the global report entitled Gender, Climate and Security: Sustaining Inclusive Peace on the Frontlines of Climate Change published by UNEP, UN Women, UN DPPA, and UNDP.

This seminar is the eighth of the Women in Asia-Pacific Security Research Seminar Series 2020-21, jointly supported by the Graduate Research & Development Network for Asian Security (GRADNAS) and the ANU Gender Institute. This seminar series showcases the cutting-edge academic research of women in the fields of Asia-Pacific security broadly-defined, and serves as an international platform for strengthening academic exchange, feedback, and mentorship. For more information, contact the Series Convenor, Professor Evelyn Goh

A central question for the development profession is understanding why and how some countries consistently perform strongly according to the usual indicators of development progress. The World Bank’s East Asian Miracle study was a widely cited attempt to explain East Asian economic dynamism. Economists have employed ever more sophisticated econometric tools and larger databases, of the ‘I Just Ran Two Million Regressions’ genre.

In this elusive search, analytical parsimony has obvious attractions as an overarching template. ‘Why Nations Fail’, ‘The Bottom Billion’ and many other famous volumes are examples of this ‘big picture’ approach. The best of these studies draw on economics, political science, history, anthropology and much else to develop an analytical narrative around some unifying themes.

The question Hal asks in this presentation is whether such an approach is feasible and would facilitate a deeper understanding of contemporary Indonesian development dynamics. At least prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had a reasonably good understanding of the main aspects and drivers of the country’s economic development in the democratic era. The deeper question is whether one can develop a workable, comprehensive analytical framework that guides us towards an understanding of the country’s development outcomes.

Hal Hill is H.W. Arndt Professor Emeritus of Southeast Asian Economies at The Australian National University. He works mainly on the economies of Southeast Asia. Details of his activities and recent work can be found here: