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Webinar: Dangers of “Self-Determination”: the Chinese Communist Party and the Breakup of Yugoslavia as a Post-Cold War Cautionary Tale

On May 29th the online seminar will take place, titled Dangers of “Self-Determination”: the Chinese Communist Party and the Breakup of Yugoslavia as a Post-Cold War Cautionary Tale. The event is organized by the Department of International Organizations and Global Security Studies of the Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences.



Federico Brusadelli
(Università di Napoli L’Orientale)


Sören Keil
(University of Fribourg)


Moderated by
Katarzyna Golik
(Institute of Political Studies PAS)


Federico Brusadelli’s paper intends to explore how the élites of the People’s Republic of China have interpreted the breakup of Yugoslavia, from its prologue in the legitimacy crisis of the mid-1980s to its epilogue with the Kosovo war, in connection to their conceptualization of “self-determination” and “sovereignty”.
Through a conceptual analysis of selected essays, historiographical texts and political speeches produced by intellectuals and historians close to the Chinese Communist Party (including prominent thinkers like Wang Shaoguang or Wang Huning, the latter currently a member of the CCP’s Politburo), a common understanding of the traumatic events taking place in the Western Balkans as global mirror of local concerns will be revealed.
In other words, the author will try to demonstrate that the explosion of the “Balkan powder keg” has been used consistently as a “cautionary tale” to defend the conceptual and political agenda of the Party from the 1990s onward. Criticizing Tito’s federal project as a “deviation from Marxism”, emphasizing the pernicious effect of an “ethnic” arrangement of the State and of an excess of “self-determination”, or accusing the League of Communists of Yugoslavia of having lost the grip on the source of “sovereignty”, became instrumental to the justification of the post-Tiananmen centralist and nationalist turn as the only way to avoid the calamities already experienced in Moscow and Belgrade. In this framework, the connection – or the “sympathy” – between the Chinese leadership and Slobodan Milosevic, especially reinforced during the NATO operations of 1999, will be considered as a demonstration of a common post-cold war trajectory from socialism to nationalism, in which “sovereignty” has been rearticulated in a Schmittian sense as a defense from the perceived global and humanitarian encroachment of the post-cold war era.


Federico Brusadelli – is Lecturer in Chinese History and International History of East Asia at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”, where he completed his PhD in Asian Studies in 2016. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a board member of the European Association for Chinese Philosophy (EACP), managing editor of the journal Ming Qing Yanjiu, and currently a visiting fellow at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Sofia. His monograph “Confucian Concord”, on the utopian political thought of Kang Youwei (1858-1927), was published in 2020 by Brill.


Sören Keil – scholar in the areas of federalism and decentralisation, conflict resolution and democratization. He has worked as an expert for several international organisations, governments and civil society organisations. Trained political scientist with more than 15 years of experience. Sören has authored and edited 11 books. Currently, Academic Head of the Institute of International Research and Consulting Centre at the Institute of Federalism, University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Before that, Director of the Politics and International Relations programme at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom.


Federico Brusadelli, Federal Failure: the Chinese Communist Party and the Breakup of Yugoslavia as a Post-Cold War Cautionary Tale, “Global Perspectives” (University of California Press) [forthcoming].


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