Joshua Leong (’18) is the recipient of the Tan Ming Seng Prize for his capstone project exploring the links between Chinese Studies and Global Affairs.
“My capstone explores how the Chinese cultural concept of mianzi or ‘face’ influenced Chinese status seeking and China’s behaviour in bilateral relations. My inspiration was David Kang’s article “Getting Asia Wrong: The Need for New Analytic Frameworks” where he argued that International Relations was dominated by theories drawn from the Western experience and how Asian countries might not fit into said frameworks. From there I sought to advance my own theory which can account for the biggest difference between Asia and the West: Culture. My theoretical influences were Shih Chih-yu’s Spirit of Chinese Foreign Policy, Richard Ned Lebow’s A Cultural Theory of International Relations, and Johan Galtung’s work on status and status consistency.
My capstone highlights aspects often overlooked in International Relations such as social psychology and status seeking, and it shows how China’s behaviour may not just be influenced by material factors alone but also the way it is treated by others which reflects the status they ascribe to China. It also demonstrates how policy makers must keep in mind the other side’s culture and status. Finally, it makes a contribution to the literature on status by showing how status can be linked not just to aggression but also to cooperation, and how correcting status consistencies could result in better, more peaceful relations”.