Doctoral thesis: Towards China’s Strategic Narrative


LicPhil Jyrki Kallio's doctoral dissertation explores the Communist Party-led process to construct a new strategic narrative which endorses China’s status as a rising but peaceful superpower.

Throughout the dissertation Jyrki Kallio shows that how strategic narrative give the Chinese leaders ideational tools for making China challenger to the West, and ultimately to transform the structure of the existing international order.

” A strategic narrative for China would need to describe where China is going, how it will get there, and what kind of happy ending will emerge at the destination”, Says Kallio

One fundament of such a narrative is China’s perceived national essence in the form of “Traditional Learning”, the supposed amalgamation of China’s ancient wisdom, which is currently enjoying a revival.

The dissertation illustrates how the Communist Party is instrumentalizing Traditional Learning, particularly Confucianism, by emphasizing only those virtues that serve its interests, such as loyalty to the state.

“The dissertation concludes that despite the lip service the Party pays to the importance of tradition, the Party doctrine and Confusianism continue to exist in two parallel universes which do not seem to be merging”, says Kallio.

Identity change

Another fundament of the strategic narrative is the same as that which the Party builds its legitimacy on: Its role as the ultimate defender of China’s national integrity and dignity.

“This role arises from the humiliations inflicted on late imperial China by colonial powers. China’s current leading slogan, ‘the Chinese Dream’, is analogously said to mean the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. This has strong foreign policy-related dimensions”, Kallio argues.

China’s economic rise has led observers both inside and outside of China to start presenting evermore bolder visions of China’s rising political and military power in the global arena. Many scholars in China are suggesting that China’s growing role on the world stage on the one hand, and the revival of Traditional Learning in China on the other, should lead to the emergence of a Chinese, if not Confucian, international relations theory.

“China’s leaders utilize history and tradition in their rhetoric to emphasize the uniquely Chinese nature of their politics, and to rationalize their opposition to universal values and perceived West-centrism of the international system”, says Kallio.

Kallio’s dissertation concludes that no Confucian international relations model has emerged as yet, but elements of a Chinese world view, based on ancient ideals, are increasingly finding their way into the foreign policy rhetoric. Dissertation also suggests that understanding the domestic historico-cultural context is crucial for decoding any societal phenomena in China.

Jyrki Kallio.jpg

Information on the public examination of the dissertation:

Jyrki Kallio’s doctoral thesis Towards China's Strategic Narrative: On the construction of the historico-cultural roots of China's national identity in the light of the Chinese debate relating to the rise of traditional schools of thought will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Law, University of Lapland on Friday 25 November at 12 o’clock lecture room 11, Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi. Professor Ralph Weber, University of Basel will serve as the opponent, and Professor Matti Nojonen as the custos.



Information on the doctoral candidate:

LicPhil Jyrki Kallio (born 1965) completed upper secondary school in 1983, and has obtained the degree of master of Social Sciences (International Politics, Political History and East Asian Studies) at the University of Helsinki in 1992 and the degree of Licentiate of Philosophy at the University of Helsinki (East Asian Studies) in 2009. Kallio has previously worked for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (Jan 1995–Dec 2013). Kallio was granted in 2015 by J. A. Hollo award and The Joel Toivola Foundation award.

The author works at present for The Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA).


More information:


The dissertation can be purchased f.e. from verkkokauppa Juvenes. Enquiry and press copies are available from Lapin yliopistokustannus, phone: +358 40 821 4242, e-mail: julkaisu (at)


Jyrki Kallio: Towards China's Strategic Narrative: On the construction of the historico-cultural roots of China's national identity in the light of the Chinese debate relating to the rise of traditional schools of thought. Acta Universitatis Lapponiensis 339. Lapland University Press. Rovaniemi. 2016. ISBN 978-952-484-936-4. ISSN 0788-7604. Electronic version (pdf): Acta electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis. 207. ISBN 978-952-484-937-1. ISSN 1796-6310.

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