Diplomacy in the Making: A Practice-Based Account of China’s Foreign Ministry in the Field of Diplomacy
University of Cambridge
Politics and International Studies
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Loh, M. H. (2020). Diplomacy in the Making: A Practice-Based Account of China’s Foreign Ministry in the Field of Diplomacy (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42390
China’s rise and its increasing importance to international relations as a discipline-defining phenomenon is well recognized and is reflected in the ever-growing scholarship dedicated to understanding China’s politics. Yet, within this body of work, little is known about China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), its diplomats and the role it plays in China’s international politics. Mirroring international relations’ disciplinary focus on the state, the exceptional and the visible, much of this literature ignores the quotidian and banal activities of actors that produce diplomacy, while frequently dismissing MOFA’s importance. This thesis takes the Chinese case as its foil to extend the insights of a Bourdieu-inspired practice theory. At the same time, it uses the practice approach to shed light on the understudied yet significant practices, materials, sites and institutions of contemporary Chinese diplomacy. This study makes three main contributions to the literature on practice theory and China’s international politics. First, arguing against prevailing interpretations of Chinese foreign policy and the elision of the Foreign Ministry, it presents evidence to show the centrality and influence of the ministry and its diplomats. This is done through an interrogation of Chinese diplomatic practices where MOFA’s capacities to counsel, implement and coordinate become discernible. Through this examination, it also explains how material objects can co-produce practices. Second, filling a small but important gap within the practice literature, the study highlights examples of transversal disruptions – the potentially disruptive effects of field overlaps. This is most apparent in transnational fields such as the ASEAN-China and multilateral track-two diplomatic sites where the operative logic from the Chinese diplomatic field is brought to bear in this space. Third, in thinking with and against Bourdieu, the concept of an organizational habitus is introduced. This serves as a more precise heuristic tool, to study MOFA as an institutional actor, where it develops dispositions, perceives and reacts to the social world around it. Accordingly, a link is drawn between MOFA’s organizational habitus and China’s identity, hence giving an account of how the ministry’s habitus engender practices that is used by non-Chinese diplomatic actors to form perceptions of her state identity.
China, diplomacy, practice theory, international relations, Bourdieu
This PhD is sponsored by the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences International PhD Scholarship from Nanyang Technological University under Singapore's Ministry of Education.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.42390
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