Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (12): 1769-1784.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1357-1

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Re-interpretation of the classical geopolitical theories in a critical geopolitical perspective

Zhiding HU1,2(), Dadao LU2   

  1. 1. School of Tourism and Geography Science, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming 650500, China
    2. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2015-10-03 Accepted:2015-11-03 Online:2016-12-20 Published:2016-12-20
  • About author:

    Author: Hu Zhiding (1986-), PhD and Associate Professor, specialized in globalization and geo-setting research. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41401157, No.41661033


Struggling for supremacy between great powers and the rise or fall and regime change of great powers are all subject to the Geopolitical Law. Geographers should keep in step with the times, accurately grasp the national interests, and seize the opportunity to contribute to the great rejuvenation of our nation. However, due to lack of criticism on the history and philosophy of geopolitics, we can neither accurately understand the geopolitical theory, nor effectively put the geopolitical theory into practice. This paper introduces the development of critical geopolitics, summarizes the three characteristics of critical geopolitics, and interprets the four classical geopolitical theories accordingly. In order to simplify the interpretation process, this paper firstly presents an analytical framework for interpretation of four classical geopolitical theories; secondly, focuses on interpretation of “The Geographical Pivot of History” put forward by Mackinder according to the analytical framework; finally, critically summarizes the four classical geopolitical theories. Through the critical interpretation, this paper draws a conclusion that there are the scientific, hypothetical and conceptual classical geopolitical theories. The construction of classical geopolitical theories is based on the international geopolitical structure, spatial distribution of national interests and inter-state spatial conflict, in order to show the identity of theoretical constructor, so as to reflect the historicality, sociality, situationality and geographical knowledge - power structure of geopolitical theories.

Key words: critical geopolitics, geopolitics, national organism theory, sea power theory, land power theory, edge district theory