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Coherence or Contestation: Chinese, Japanese and Russian Approaches to the Transformation of Peacebuilding Practices

English title Coherence or Contestation: Chinese, Japanese and Russian Approaches to the Transformation of Peacebuilding Practices
Applicant Krause Keith
Number 176363
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Graduate Institute Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2A Department of International Relations
Institution of higher education Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies - IHEID
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.10.2018 - 30.09.2021
Approved amount 709'352.00
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Keywords (8)

Peacebuilding practices; Global normative transformation; China; Norm localisation; Liberal peace; Japan; Russia; Foreign aid

Lay Summary (French)

Face à des formes variées d’agitation socio-politique et des prolongations de conflits vraisemblablement en hausse à travers le monde, les appels à renforcer la coordination internationale pour les interventions pour la paix se sont accrus. Cependant, l’étude académique du peacebuilding, qui est majoritairement anglophone et fait partie idéologiquement du paradigme de la « paix libérale », se focalise peu sur les pratiques de consolidation de la paix entreprises par des pays non-Occidentaux. D’un œil critique, ce projet cherche à analyser les fondements normatifs et pratiques de ce que nous appelons l’ordre mondial du peacebuilding en se focalisant sur la Chine, le Japon et la Russie.
Lay summary

Ce projet considère la diffusion à l’international de ces « normes » à partir des conceptions du peacebuilding en Chine, au Japon et en Russie. Là-bas, ces normes peuvent être activement intégrées, recevoir un semblant d’intérêt, ou même explicitement ignorées dans certains cas. Ainsi,  comment ces nouvelles conceptions « locales »  de consolidation de la paix sont-elles, à leur tour, projetées dans l’arène internationale ? A travers des consultations sur place, des dossiers informatifs et des œuvres universitaires, ce projet réunira des professionnels à Genève et à New-York avec des visions divergentes du peacebuilding, entretenues par des universitaires, des dirigeants et le grand public des trois pays de l’étude.

Contexte scientifique et sociétal du projet de recherche

Le domaine des Relations Internationales (RI) a longtemps été impliqué dans l’étude de la « transformation normative » -- i.e. les moyens par lesquels les normes aux ambitions universelles, tels que les droits humains, ont pu être « projetées » sur des Etats et ainsi « assimilées » par des acteurs locaux. En considérant le peacebuilding comme une autre norme des affaires internationales, ce projet espère contribuer à la théorie non seulement en examinant les conceptions de peacebuilding localisées en Chine, au Japon et en Russie, mais aussi comment ces interprétations sont « reprojetées » à leur tour au niveau international. En effet, la Chine graduellement été impliquée dans des activités de peacebuilding en Afrique, la Russie est active au Caucase et au Moyen-Orient et le Japon a récemment modifié sa constitution pour permettre aux militaires d’être envoyé à l’étranger. Compte tenu de ces dynamiques contemporaines et puisant dans le vaste réseau de la Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, ce projet œuvre vers une importante contribution à l’étude de l’ordre international de la paix.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 05.07.2018

Lay Summary (English)

With various forms of socio-political unrest and protracted conflicts seemingly on the rise across the globe, calls to strengthen international coordination on peace interventions have intensified. Yet mainstream peacebuilding scholarship, which is predominantly Anglophone and ideologically embedded in the “liberal peace” paradigm, pays little attention to peacebuilding practices undertaken by non-Western countries. This project seeks to critically compare and contrast the normative and practical underpinnings of what we call the global peacebuilding order by focusing specifically on China, Japan and Russia.
Lay summary

The project aims to study how “norms” are diffused internationally by focusing on understandings of “peacebuilding” in China, Japan and Russia. There, norms may be actively embraced, merely paid lip service to, or even explicitly ignored in some cases. The project seeks to explore how these new “localized” understandings of peacebuilding are in turn re-projected onto the global arena. Through in-country consultations, issue briefs and academic outputs, the project will engage practitioners in Geneva and New York with “alternative” visions of peacebuilding maintained by academics, decision-makers and the general public in the three countries of study.

Scientific and societal context of the research project

The field of International Relations (IR) has long been involved in the study of “normative transformation” – i.e. with the ways in which norms with universal ambitions, such as human rights, are “projected” onto states and there “internalized” by local actors. By taking the case of “peacebuilding” as another norm of international affairs, the project hopes to make a theoretical contribution by not only looking at how peacebuilding understandings are “localized” in China, Japan and Russia, but also at how these interpretations are in turn fed back “up” to the global level. Indeed, China has been increasingly involved in peacebuilding activities in Africa, Russia is active in the Caucasus and the Middle East, and Japan has recently changed its constitution to allow military personnel to be sent abroad. In view of these contemporary dynamics, and drawing on the co-applicants’ extensive network of peacebuilding scholars and practitioners through their involvement in the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, the project aims to generate a significant contribution to the study of the global peacebuilding order.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 05.07.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
170986 Violence Prevention (VIPRE): Towards a Material-Semiotic Approach to the Prevention of Violent Human Rights Abuses 01.04.2017 Sinergia


By focusing on the observed disconnect between the mainstream Anglophone liberal peace paradigm and the narratives and practices of “new” peacebuilding actors such as China, Russia and Japan, this project seeks to study normative global transformation by analysing the manner in which both top-down and bottom-up dynamics influence the nature, content, and direction of normative change. In doing so, it advances a new theoretical and methodological framework that seeks to offer an innovative contribution to contemporary scholarship on a) norm diffusion; b) the role of rising powers in global governance; and c) the (re)shaping of international order. The existing literature on norm studies in International Relations (IR) has achieved much to shed light on the process through which global norms are communicated and diffused to local actors, as well as on how local agents strategically adapt and reformulate global norms to fit their national, cultural and institutional contexts. There remains, however, a critical gap in our thinking about how localised norms become embedded and reflected in foreign policy practices, and how this in turn may affect the evolution and substantive content of norms at the global level. Moreover, there is a considerable ambiguity concerning the dichotomy between norm shaper/taker and norm entrepreneur/protector - how, in particular, one actor, for various strategic and ideational reasons, may act neither as an active norm promoter nor as an internaliser, but may practice its own interpretation of a particular norm without explicitly rejecting “mainstream” understandings of it. When such an actor is a major state as in the case of aspiring (peacebuilding) powers such as China, Japan or Russia, in what ways, and through which mechanisms, are the global dynamics of normative transformation affected? To address these questions, this project aims to develop a matrix-based approach that goes beyond norm localisation to also capture the ways in which localised norms are potentially fed back into the global context. Focusing specifically on the field of peacebuilding, on which the applicants have been working for the past decade, and by analysing three aspiring powers at the national level (China, Japan and Russia), the project seeks to understand norm evolution and transformation not merely as a top-down process, but simultaneously as a bottom-up process allowing for the possibility that peacebuilding norms emerge and evolve through a dynamic, multi-directional flow of normative influences, practices and mechanisms. Based on our existing network of scholarly and policy-practitioner contacts in the peacebuilding arena, the research team intends to undertake in-depth textual analysis, key informant interviews and stakeholder consultations in Beijing, Moscow and Tokyo, as well as in the two main multilateral peacebuilding hubs Geneva and New York. Deliverables will include a series of academic journal articles, an edited volume featuring scholars from China, Japan and Russia, an interactive web page, as well as a set of issue briefs destined for peacebuilding professionals and a wider public.