The Guanxi of Relational International Affairs

Emilian Kavalski

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This article offers a prolegomenon to a relational theory of international relations (IR). The contention is that recent attempts to bring the Western and the Chinese strands of the “relational turn” in IR into conversation have so far failed to transcend the bifurcating metanarrative of the mainstream, let alone account for the multiple intersections permeating the strategic search for relations with others. To rectify this trend, the following analysis suggests that a genuinely relational IR is also necessarily post-Western—i.e., it is neither Sinocentric, nor Eurocentric, but cultivated from the convivial, yet dissonant cross pollination of values, narratives, and practices in the study of world affairs. The attention of this article is to the ways in which the affordances of relationality are foreshadowed by the engagement with the Chinese concept of guanxi. While one of the terms that make the Chinese phrase for International Relations (guoji guanxi), it has remained occluded from the disclosure of an ontologically and epistemically relational IR. Guanxi is used thereby to amplify—not merely analyze—the intrinsic relationality both of global life and the realms of IR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-251
Number of pages19
JournalChinese Political Science Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018


  • Chinese international relations
  • Guanxi
  • Post-Western international relations
  • Relational international relations
  • Relationality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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