Embedded diplomacy: a theoretical explanation towards China’s city diplomacy

ZHAO Kejin1

(1.Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University,)

【Abstract】City diplomacy is a new diplomatic phenomenon in this world of globalization. From the international sister cities in the early stage to today’s increasingly emerging multi-lateral organization of cities, city diplomacy is developing in an ever more flourishing way. Especially, with the rapid rise of China and the deepening of urbanization, there are more and more cities which have set up a strategy to be a world city or an internationalized metropolis. City diplomacy has become an important carrier to support these strategies. However, there is no satisfactory theoretical explanation of city diplomacy. Whether it is the world-system theory, or the main stream theories such as the liberalism or the realism, they only capture one side of the reason why city diplomacy has become increasingly important, whilst failing to comprehend this phenomenon in a mufti-aspect and multi-dimension way. As a matter of fact, city diplomacy is a process of embedment of the diplomatic function of a city. In the process of urbanization, cities are gradually embedded with the diplomacy of sovereign states, of international organizations and institutions, and of social networks, which constructs an embedded diplomacy system that meets the demands for globalization and urbanization on cities’ functions. We can see this process clearly in the diplomatic practice of Shanghai, China’s biggest city. Thus, China needs to form an explicit strategy of city internationalization so that cities that have abundant resources of international communications could transform the resources into diplomatic institutions, and promote city diplomacy in an enthusiastic and progressive way, making greater contributions to both the city’s international competitiveness and the diplomacy of the country as a whole.

【Keywords】 globalization; urbanization; city diplomacy; embedded diplomacy; China’s diplomacy;

【Funds】 Supported by the Project of National Planning Foundation of Philosophy and Social Sciences (11&ZD063).

Download this article

This Article


CN: 11-1343/F

Vol , No. 11, Pages 135-154+160

November 2014


Article Outline


  • 1 Rise of city diplomacy
  • 2 Existing explanations and criticisms
  • 3 Embedded diplomacy: a theoretical explanation towards city diplomacy
  • 4 City diplomacy practices of Shanghai
  • 5 Conclusion