China Through the Lens of Modernity

Chinese Journal of International Politics

Author/s (editor/s):

Barry Buzan, George Lawson

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Oxford University Press

Barry Buzan and George Lawson, ‘China Through the Lens of Modernity’, Chinese Journal of International Politics, 13(2) 2020: 187-217.

This article examines China’s encounter with modernity from the 19th century to the present day. It builds on the historical narrative of modernity developed by Buzan and Lawson (2015), and two theoretical perspectives: uneven and combined development, and differentiation theory. The article opens with a short history of modernity, establishing that it is not a static phenomenon, but a continuously unfolding process. It then explores five periods of China’s encounter with modernity: imperial decline and resistance to modernization; civil war and Japanese invasion; Mao’s radical communist project; Deng’s market socialism; and Xi’s attempt to synthesize Confucius, Mao, and Deng. It explores both how China fits into the general trajectory of modernity, and how it has evolved from rejection of it to constructing its own distinctive version of ‘modernity with Chinese characteristics’. The article ends by reflecting on what issues remain within China’s version of modernity, and how it fits, and doesn’t fit with other forms of modernity already established within global international society.

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