The importance of bona fide friendships to international politics: China’s quest for friendships that matter

Nicholas Ross Smith, Tracey Fallon

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Friendship is an important aspect of a state’s ability to succeed in great power politics, especially with regards to international order reshaping or building. Through engaging with the extant literature on friendship in International Relations, it is posited that while friendships tend to arise along strategic or normative dimensions, the most important (and enduring) friendships are bilateral relationships which are also culturally and historically aligned—what this article terms a bona fide international friendship. With China’s rise continuing apace, the importance for it to have friends, especially powerful ones, is self-evident. This article examines the concept of friendship in the scope of China’s foreign policymaking, identifying an increased effort to cultivate friendships. However, this article argues that as it currently stands, China does not appear to have any significant bona fide friends. Russia may yet emerge as a serious contender as a bona fide friend for China, but substantial issues may arise in that friendship in the coming decades. Thus, for China, and other aspiring international powers, building bona fide international friendships with prominent international powers is a critical task ahead because international orders underpinned by bona fide friendships will likely be more resilient than those orders that are not.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-43
Number of pages22
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished Online - 11 Mar 2022


  • Friendship
  • International Relations
  • China
  • International Order

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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