ICS Occasional Papers

Internal Drivers of China’s External Behaviour

While external factors are useful in understanding a country’s behaviour, they are not sufficient to account for many foreign policy decisions made by China’s leaders. Domestic politics have played a profound role in shaping China’s behaviour in the domestic and international realms. This paper suggests four crucial domestic factors which have driven China’s path: geography, internal stability, rising nationalism built on China’s imagined past, and China’s maritime concerns. Together with external drivers, these help to explain why China has chosen certain initiatives and actions. The paper then examines some implications of the role of domestic factors in shaping China’s policy choices.


Keywords: China’s behaviour, China’s Rejuvenation, Global Order, Chinese Domestic Politics, Geopolitics


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