The introduction outlines the puzzle and research question for the book: what explains China’s response to intervention at the UN Security Council? China is increasingly forthright about the specter of regime change, viewing the UN Security Council as directly or indirectly executing regime change—the forcible or coerced removal of the political leadership of a state by outside actors—via non-consensual intervention. Broad changes in the international system, like the norms of protection of civilians, accountability, and the responsibility to protect are invoked to secure populations under threat of mass abuse by their governments. However, China’s response to UN Security Council intervention in the trinity of post-9/11 cases where heads of state were marked for dispatch by public discourse is varied: China condoned, acquiesced or prevented action. China’s record cannot be robustly explained by existing theory. This book argues that status is an overlooked determinant in understanding China’s varying position regarding intervention at the UN Security Council. Under certain conditions, China’s status peer groups can modify China’s intervention-resistant preferences in these most difficult cases. China’s pursuit of status is partly driven by consequentialist calculation, but it is also inherently social, to conform to an intersubjective standard of good behavior as a member of the peer group guided by a logic of appropriateness. China faces a status dilemma in that China seeks status from two sometimes competing peer groups: the great powers and the Global South.
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