Call for Papers: “China beyond China: Infrastructuring and Ecologizing a New Global Hegemony?”


Guest Editors: Fabricio Rodríguez (Friedrich Schiller University, Jena) and David Tyfield (Lancaster University)

Kindly note that we have already received a high number of manuscript proposals.
The Call will thus be closed on schedule by the 15 November at the latest.

Deadline for manuscript proposal: 15 November 2020

Deadline for final manuscript: 29 January 2021


With a new decade, the world has also entered a new period of hegemonic inter-regnum. This moment resembles what Bremmer and Roubini (2011) have called a “G-zero world”, in which global crises, most graphically today the COVID-19 pandemic, are met with no clear global leadership. While the United States – and its retreat from key multilateral arenas amidst domestic turmoil – is central to this predicament, so too and inseparably are the seismic responses of the presumptive hegemonic contender, China. The latter, however, not only seems to raise more questions about the future of globalization; it is also significantly less well understood, particularly in the now thinkable context of latent deglobalization. Arguably, the burning question is how China will expand its remarkable influence in this critical scenario while stabilizing (or at least not upending) its own economic and socio-political conditions in the process. How will China go beyond China?

This is to ask more than how China “goes global” (Shambaugh 2013), searching for status and influence across regions. The G-zero moment is one of extraordinary openness, both uncertainty and possibility, for China and the world. Moreover, it is characterised by the unprecedented entwining of multiple global crises that both feed into and are fed by the vacuum of global leadership, and are hence predestined to shape any 21st century hegemony: climate change, pandemics, resource over­consumption, energy transitions, digitalization, and – not least – tensions between liberal democracy and authoritarianism.

The key issue concerns how the fast-emerging, transnational, and localized dynamics of China’s global influence go “beyond” existing conceptions, imaginaries, and protocols on both sides of the current escalating tension. How are ongoing changes developing, upgrading, or even transcending the existing understandings of the “China” that has manoeuvred strategically thus far into its status as imminent-but-not-yet-arrived hegemon? Concurrently, to what extent does the hiatus of the G-zero moment call for the identification of and critical reflection regarding potentially unwavering storylines of “Western” scholarship, and, hence, diplomatic discourse or geopolitical commentary? Addressing these questions calls for theoretical (and hence cross-disciplinary) as well as methodological innovation to elicit new understandings, both critical and constructive, regarding the challenges, contradictions, and potentials of China’s rapidly changing role in the making, reinforcing and/or overcoming of global crises.

The Special Issue focuses on the extent to which the manifold processes of “infrastructuring” and “ecologizing” the globe, not least through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), point to or question the prospect of a new Chinese global hegemony. We focus on these issues, given first, the centrality of the BRI in China’s “pivot to the World” and the discursive emergence of “green”, “digital,” and “health” versions of it. Second, we see a promising source of analysis arising from juxtaposing China’s claim to global environmental leadership, on the one hand, and the Chinese-led expansion of both low- and high-carbon technologies and infrastructures, on the other. Third, bringing together issues of infrastructure, ecology, and hegemony is itself key to understanding the new sources of global legitimacy that China aspires to tap into; e.g. by building the image of a “constructive hegemon” wherever pertinent, and by projecting strategic assertiveness whenever necessary. In turn, this raises questions of how and to what extent China’s overseas initiatives can contribute to the building of a new “global community with a shared future” while perhaps simultaneously contributing to the further consolidation of “diminished multilateralism” (Rüland 2012) and/or deepening of global crises.

In this light, we emphasize issues of socio-natural relations (e.g. of climate change and energy transitions) and emergent socio-technical systems (e.g. of the emergent digital sphere) and possibly their conjunction (as in mega-projects of digital infrastructure/cyberspace infrastructuring, renewable energy, circular and/or “bioeconomy” projects). By asking how China moves beyond China, we are interested in research that focuses on these arenas and promises qualitative insight, not just quantitative extrapolation, regarding emergent Sino-global pathways and futures. Specifically, we invite explorations of the transnational and localized actors, processes, and practices involving the construction of a hegemonic China in world-regions including but not limited to Africa, Asia, Eastern/Southern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.

In short, this Special Issue invites contributions that explore case studies of Chinese projects in the fields of environmental policy, energy transition, infrastructure, digital innovation, circular economy, and/or bioeconomy. We welcome articles that do not claim to present a definitive normative judgement regarding the rise of China (or specific case studies thereof). Instead, we welcome theoretically informed and empirically driven research that presents a differentiated understanding of the complex dynamics at play, and to hold open which China (or which Chinas, in the plural) may yet emerge and perhaps merge into a new phenomenon of global hegemony.

Research on the following subjects is thus invited:

  • The (digital) Belt & Road Initiative(s) as a transnational sphere of influence and contestations thereof in terms of democracy and authoritarianism
  • Cross-sectoral projects involving agriculture, digitalization, and infrastructure as well as their implications for food sovereignty and sustainable farming practices
  • Climate politics and/or sustainable innovations outside China, particularly in the context of power/knowledge configurations and low-carbon transitions
  • Promotion and implementation of Chinese policy narratives such as the Green Belt & Road, Ecological Civilisation, the Health Silk Road, etc.
  • Transitional pathways and the political economy of bio-based production, bio-tech innovation, and circular economies in Chinese-funded projects
  • Multi-scalar dynamics and implications of Chinese overseas investments in renewable energy and their potentially conflicting meanings in terms of global power relations


Prospective contributors to the Special Issue are invited to send a short 300-500-word proposal to the guest editors at: / by 15 November 2020

The proposal should detail the empirical focus and main research questions addressed. Selected contributors will be invited to submit their full article for peer review by 29 January 2021.