Undercurrents: essays below the surface of China's geopolitics

Cover photo: © : Zheng Lu / Sundaram Tagore Gallery New York
Cover photo: © : Zheng Lu / Sundaram Tagore Gallery New York

The tide of great power strife is rising once again. When tensions between rivals increase, the need to understand each other becomes greater. Where newspapers write about geopolitical considerations, Undercurrents dives deeper below the surface. It argues that we need to persist in our attempt to comprehend what is obscured and asks: what undercurrents are driving China’s evolution as a global power?

In this collection of essays, introduced by political theorist Ties Dams (ed.), eminent European scholars share their view of what’s shaping China’s geopolitics:

Journalist Leen Vervaeke reflects on the unique experience of reporting the Covid-outbreak from Wuhan and the 2022 protests in Beijing.
Historian Vincent K.L. Chang traces back his family history through the many official histories written and rewritten during China’s tumultuous twentieth century.
Cultural theorist Jeroen de Kloet dismantles singular notions of Chinese identity that so often dominate geopolitical discourse by way of unconventional means: cinema.
Economist Heleen Mees observes how the US went from championing China’s entry into the global economic order to a strategy of decoupling.
Philosopher and sinologist Roel Sterckx distils the ancient philosophies that flow through China’s contemporary geopolitics.

Undercurrents – essays below the surface of China’s geopolitics is a collaboration of the Clingendael China Centre and LeidenAsiaCentre funded by the China Knowledge Network.

Clingendael Institute

Clingendael is an independent think tank and a diplomatic academy, based in The Hague - City of Peace and Justice. We aim to contribute to a secure, sustainable and just world through our analyses, training and public debate. We work with partners across public and private sectors, including policymakers, members of the armed forces, diplomats, politicians and business executives.


The aim of the LeidenAsiaCentre is to generate academic knowledge on modern East Asia that can find societal applications in the Netherlands. The LeidenAsiaCentre focuses primarily on East Asia: China (including Taiwan), Japan, Korea and Singapore, but is expanding its focus to include South and Southeast Asia, notably India and the Indo-Pacific. As an independent NGO by Dutch law, the LeidenAsiaCentre identifies topics related to social-economic and political developments within Asia that are of relevance for the Netherlands and Europe at large.