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Does Socialization Change China's International Behavior?


Alastair Iain Johnston, Co-Director of the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Programme and Laine Professor of China in World Affairs at Harvard University, presented his work on “Social Influence and Cooperation: The Case of China and the Comprehensive Test Ban” at Princeton on the afternoon of December 14. Citing China’s increasing participation in multilateral institutions, Professor Johnston argued that Beijing has become more willing to seek cooperation under such frameworks since the 1990s. A key factor behind this change is a growing desire among top Chinese leaders for the PRC to be seen as a “responsible major power” internationally. This development, according to Professor Johnston, owes much to the processes of “back-patting” and “shaming” within the international arena, which have socialized Chinese leaders into accepting logics of appropriate behaviour that include cooperation through international institutions. Through an analysis of the events leading up to China’s acceptance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the presentation suggested that “shaming” made Chinese leaders want to avoid being seen as obstructionist over issues with broad international support and legitimacy. Professor Johnston further underscored his argument by bringing in comparisons of Chinese voting patterns in the United Nations General Assembly, and China’s qualified cooperation with the anti-landmine regime. The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session, as well as a catered free discussion session. (Ja Ian Chong)