China’s Bid for Hegemony? China’s New Multilateral Institutions and Social Purpose in Global Governance


In recent years, the Chinese government has engaged in a host of multilateral institutional creation efforts. Since 1990, China has acted as an institutional initiator or founding member of at least 21 distinct multilateral initiatives. These range from new multilateral development banks, intergovernmental security organizations, and space technology organizations through to transnational public policy forums, inter-regional groupings, and human rights conferences (see Stephen, 2021 for an overview). The emergence of China as a leading initiator of multilateralism raises novel empirical, theoretical, and policy-relevant questions. These include:

  • Which institutions and initiatives has China participated in creating?
  • How does China-led multilateralism compare to existing institutions?
  • Do China’s new institutions have implications not only for the distribution of political authority, but for the principles and norms that underpin global governance?
  • What role does the creation of multilateral institutions play in the contestation of international hegemony?

This project addresses such questions systematically by mapping, accounting for, and identifying the international political repercussions of China’s new multilateral institutions in the last thirty years. Methodologically, the project seeks to operationalize the concept of social purpose in global governance and systematically map it based on interpretivist and quantitative methods of text analysis. Theoretically, the project will contribute to the literature on China’s rise, institutional proliferation, and hegemonic ordering.