Chinese foreign policy in the twenty-first century: Insights from the "two-good" theory

T. Clifton Morgan, Glenn Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper analyzes recent trends in Chinese international behavior through the use of the two-good theory of foreign policy. This general theory posits that states pursue two desired goals - change and maintenance, which refer to their abilities to alter or to protect specific aspects of the status quo. The extent to which countries pursue change and maintenance is a function of state preferences and of the relative capabilities of the country. The theory has been tested in other circumstances and has been shown to explain international behavior well. In this paper we introduce our theory briefly and then apply it to three components of Chinese foreign policy - the initiation of international conflict, the formation of alliances, and the donation of foreign aid. We find that the incidence of the Chinese initiation of international conflict is strongly affected by the growth of its economy. Nonetheless, our analysis indicates that, generally, China is significantly less active in seeking to bring about change in the international system than is sometimes alleged. Furthermore, we argue that China has moderated its foreign policy in response to Western diplomatic overtures. We suggest that continued attempts to engage China diplomatically may prove fruitful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-60
Number of pages26
JournalIssues and Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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