Orginal Article

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

  • HU Zhiding , 1, 2 ,
  • LU Dadao 2
  • 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

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

Received date: 2015-10-03

  Accepted date: 2015-11-03

  Online published: 2016-12-20

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41401157, No.41661033


Journal of Geographical Sciences, All Rights Reserved


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.

Cite this article

HU Zhiding , LU Dadao . Re-interpretation of the classical geopolitical theories in a critical geopolitical perspective[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2016 , 26(12) : 1769 -1784 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-016-1357-1

1 Introduction

Throughout history, the rise of any country will cast influence on global stability and geopolitical structure (Hu et al., 2014). The rise to supremacy and decline of big powers are all subject to the laws of geopolitics. Since the end of the Cold War, with the rapid development of China and other emerging countries, the international power structure has been undergoing profound restructuring;the peaceful development of China urgently needs to be supported by geopolitics, geo-economics and other theories (Lu et al., 2013). Geography is the basis for research on geopolitics and geo-economics. Therefore, Lu Dadao called for the geographers to keep up with the pace of the times, accurately grasp the national interests, seize the opportunity to make a contribution, especially submit the more forward-looking, holistic and speculative consultation report to the State based on a solid theoretical research, and demonstrate some opinions and suggestions on worldwide problems put forward by the geographical community to the public.
However, at present, in the study on geopolitical theories made by the domestic geographical circles, especially in the geo-strategic research, there may be a certain level of misunderstandings, as called by Ratzel, Mackinder, Mahan, Speakman and other early classical geo-strategic scholars, and guiding the China’s geo-strategic practice with the help of their theories. In the application of classical geopolitical theory for guiding the geo-strategic practice, we often ignore a background of theory builders, blindly following the “immutability of truth” (Sun et al., 2006). Leslie Hepple clearly pointed out that, due to lack of criticism on the history and philosophy of geopolitics, we would easily make the same mistake (Hepple, 1986). Naturally, there still exist some disadvantages of China's geopolitical security situation analyzed and geo-strategy proposed only according to the classical geopolitical theory (Zhang, 1996; Wang, 2003; Du et al., 2012). Engels already clearly stated: “If a nation wants to stand at the forefront of science, it must have the theoretical thinking all the time. However, the theoretical thinking of every age is a kind of historical products, which has different forms and contents at different times.” (Marx et al., 1971) Although there are differences in expression forms and research contents of early classical geopolitical theories (national organism theory, sea power theory, land power theory and edge district theory), every Geopolitical Theory proposed is one of the theoretical products required by the historical background and national reality at that time. Therefore, when learning from and making use of such classical geopolitical theories, we must understand comprehensively the scientific, hypothetical and conceptual levels of geopolitical theories, as any theory has its scientific aspect and its hypothetical aspect, and also is a natural expression of political ideas put forward by theoretic advocates (Wang et al., 2003). Social scientists cannot get rid of their social and historical identities. The social knowledge they have proposed is always one-sided, has one viewpoint, and draws out the meanings of special moral and ideology.
Under the influence of postmodernism, especially the knowledge-power theory proposed by Michel Foucault, scholars of geopolitics have critically reconstructed geopolitics, thereby resulting in the birth of critical geopolitics (Chen et al., 2012). Through reflection on the ontology, epistemology and intellectual history of traditional geopolitics, critical geopolitics can carry out the doubt and criticism on some basic logics and hypotheses of traditional theory (Ge, 2010a). From the point of view of critical geopolitics, this paper intends to critically review and reflect the construction process of classical geopolitical theories, and restore the historicality, sociality, situationality and inclusive power - knowledge structure of classical geopolitical theories. This paper can be broadly divided into three parts: Part I: Overview of the development of critical geopolitics, focusing on summarizing its main characteristics; Part II: Deconstruction of classical geopolitical theories by learning from and making use of critical geopolitical thoughts; Part III: Conclusion and discussion.

2 Development of critical geopolitics and its characteristics

2.1 Development of critical geopolitics

The origins of critical geopolitics can be traced back to the 1970s. However, this term “critical geopolitics” was created by three political geographers (Gearóid Ó Tuathail, John Agnew and Simon Dalby) in the early 1990s (Ó Tuathail et al., 1992; Dalby, 1991a, 1991b). The critical geopolitics came into being due to the following main three reasons: (1) changes in pattern of Geopolitics after the Cold War; (2) uniquely-divided research field driven by desire; (3) sense of responsibility undertaken by many English-speaking scholars who deeply felt that it was necessary to correlate the ideas with political practice in the post-Cold War years (Dodds, 2001). As a bridge for currently communicating geography with international relations, due to the influence and inspiration by Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, the critical geopolitics has been defined as the combination of a series of political discourses, statements and practices, rather than a term simply describing the relationship between geography and politics (Ó Tuathail, 1986). Therefore, the critical geopolitics is not aimed to be committed to the development of theory in the interaction between space and politics, but focuses on deconstructing the geopolitics discourse and disclosing the power relationships hidden in the discourse, geographical knowledge and other events, especially challenging all kinds of global spatial maps made by the militants (Marcus et al., 2010).
The development of critical geopolitics has benefited from a lot of research work undertaken by geographers and international relation scholars, involved in political identification, conflict geographical consequences, philosophy, political practice and other themes raised during the Cold War, and importantly supported by post-structuralism and political economics (Petter et al., 1985; Murphy, 1997). Critical geopolitics is not a denial of traditional geopolitics, but a complement to the understanding of “politics” and “geography”. Therefore, critical geopolitics can be seen as a different form of geopolitics being formed. However, there is still a dispute on the use of the term “critical geopolitics”. When attending a meeting on “New Directions for Research on Critical Geopolitics” organized by AAG (American Geographical Society) in 2007, Neil Smith pointed out that, the term “critical geopolitics” was suspected of being improperly used, which was just one of the main reasons for holding the meeting at that time (Jones et al., 2010). Otto Wasser (the pioneer of critical geopolitics) more directly pointed out that, the term “critical geopolitics” was created only for the sake of convenience (Dalby, 2010).
The main directions of criticism of critical geopolitics shall be as follows: (1) criticize the research conducted beyond the text; restore the situational practice of geopolitics; the practice of geopolitics has been regarded as an objective and actual practice in early stages; (2) criticize the country-centered research on the world's politics; restore the practice of different behavior subjects in the international geopolitics system; (3) criticize the Western-centrism; clarify the influence of Western geopolitics scholars and their discourses on the key historical development (Ó Tuathail, 1996). Therefore, the critical geopolitics scholars consider that, geopolitics is a broad cultural phenomenon, and its behavior subject is not single but diverse, and its value is not politically neutral. However, for a long time, since critical geopolitics has been excessively dominated by textualism research methods, research on conceptualization & theorization of discourse and construction of critical geopolitical theory is far from enough (Müller, 2008). Meanwhile, although critical geopolitics has shaken the state-centrism, no opposing revolutionary methods have been proposed for understanding and investigating geopolitics. Currently, some geographers have carried out related exploration into this subject (Passi, 2000, 2006; Megoran, 2006).
Affected by the definition, objectives and critical direction of critical geopolitics, the research on critical geopolitics can be broadly divided into four research subjects, namely Geopolitics Practice, Geopolitics Tradition, Geopolitics and Popular Culture, and Structural Geopolitics (Dodds, 2001). Geopolitics Practice refers to understanding of the geographical and political logics, propagation as well as the world’s political practice conditions, mainly focusing on re-thinking about the national spatial morphology (Ó Tuathail, 1966). Geopolitics Tradition refers to review of the historical and geographical background on geographical, political, strategic and other thoughts, mainly focusing on the interpretation of traditional Geopolitical thought texts, e.g. Analysis of the Impact of European Uncertain Academic and Political Climate on Development of Geopolitics Thought (Michael Heffernan), Analysis of the Role and Significance of Italian Geopolitics Imagination on Construction of Nation-State (David Atkinson), Geopolitics Practices of Ensuring the Food Security in China (Alana Boland), and Discussion on the Relationship between Geographical Imagination and Geopolitics in Argentina (Klaus Dodds) (Dodds, 2000; Boland, 2000). The study on Geopolitics and Popular Culture remarks that we have made great efforts in the practices of removing the “state-centrism” and restoring different behavior subjects, e.g. Study on Cold War and Magazine (Joanne P. Sharp), Study on Cartoon and Anti-terrorism War (Dodds), Study on Film and Geopolitics (Michael Shapiro), Study on Radio Broadcast and Geopolitics (Alasdair Pinkerton), etc. (Sharp, 2000; Dodds, 2008; Shapiro, 2008; Pinkerton et al., 2009). The study on Structural Geopolitics refers to the combination of governing practice and globalization, information network, economic transition, etc. (Luke et al., 1997).
In addition, after the end of the Cold War, the world has not entered into a new, democratic and peaceful society. As a result of wars that have broken out in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya and other regions, the conflict research on critical geopolitics has been strengthened once more (Reuber, 2000). The conflict research subjects shall mainly include six aspects, i.e., ecological politics and resource conflicts (Momtaz, 1996), territorial conflicts and boundary (Gachechiladze, 1997), geopolitics and political identification (Fenster, 1996), globalization and new state relations (Wood et al., 1993), symbolic representation of political rights (Cosgrove, 2008), and regional conflicts and new social movements (Watts et al., 1993). The emotional factors of human behavior are becoming key fields for the research on critical geopolitics, e.g. Emotion and Invasion of Iraq (Ó Tuathail, 2003), Movies and Emotional Logic of Intervention (Sidaway, 2009), Geopolitics, Emotion and Place (Sidaway, 2009), and Emotion and Security Practices (Anderson, 2010). In 2007 and 2008, the conferences on critical geopolitics were held, respectively. Some research scholars questioned and expressed their dissatisfaction with the research on critical geopolitics at that time. Under the influence of both factors, the theoretical research on critical geopolitics has been strengthened, which especially focuses on the discussion on “discourse”, “geography” and “politics”, and emphasizes theoretical improvement and other aspects (Martin, 2008; Hyndman, 2010).

2.2 Characteristics of critical geopolitics

Under the influence of postmodernism, critical geopolitics has the following three significant characteristics: (1) situationality of Geopolitical Theory and diversification of viewpoint, i.e., social and historical contexts of builder; the connotation of geopolitics can be determined by the location and viewpoint of observer; (2) geopolitics is not objective and neutral; the theory or idea of geopolitics has its value targets and political pursuits; (3) the knowledge and theory of geopolitics can reflect the discursive power relationship and discursive political connotation (Sun, 2006). When reviewed from a post-modernist point of view, “geography” is diversified with different meanings. Geography is an inevitable social and political “geographing”, a kind of earth-writing as well as a cultural and political writing of worldwide significance. Similarly, geopolitics is a writing of national political and geographical significance (Ó Tuathail, 1999). Thus, geopolitics is no longer neutral and objective research on observation of global space, but the preconditions for taking geopolitics itself as a geographical and political form, i.e. geopolitics has its contextual correlates, and contained in the real social reproduction of power and political economy (Ó Tuathail, 1998). Otto Wasser considered that, we could best understand the concept and theory of Geopolitics only through the historicality and situationality, because Geopolitics was involved in a writing of global space, while a kind of anti-universal method for knowledge exploration was required, through which Geopolitics was not considered as a stable single-dimensional and linear concept (Ó Tuathail, 1996).

3 Interpretation of classical geopolitical theory from a critical perspective

Inspired by the development of critical geopolitics and its characteristics, through the reflection on classical Geopolitical Theory by some domestic scholars (Huang et al., 2012; Ge, 2010b; Zhang, 2007), in accordance with the theoretical requirements for realizing China’s peaceful rise, we must further interpret the classical Geopolitical Theory, understand the social and historical contexts of classical geopolitical theory builder, clearly put forward the value targets and political pursuits of theory, and get rid of the “immutability in truth outlook” of theory. Only this can correctly guide the use of classical Geopolitical Theory in order to propose the Geopolitical Theory adapted to Chinese national conditions for China’s peaceful rise.
Classical Geopolitical Theories defined herein refer to “land power theory” (Mackinder), “sea power theory” (Mahan), “national organism theory” (Ratzel) and “edge district theory” (Speakman). It is almost impossible to conduct a comprehensive deconstructive interpretation of these four classical Geopolitical Theories in one paper. Therefore, the strategies proposed in this paper shall be as follows: present a framework of critical classical Geopolitical Theory based on critical geopolitics to adapt to the abovementioned four classical Geopolitical Theories; secondly, focus on the interpretation of “The Geographical Pivot of History” (Mackinder) based on this analytical framework; select the land power theory (Mackinder) in consideration of the overall influence and basic role of land power theory on the later important geo-strategic theories, e.g. edge district theory (Speakman), Grand Chessboard (Brzezinski), Diplomacy (Kissinger) and other theories considered as an extension of land power theory; finally, summarize classical Geopolitical Theories; analyze the four classical Geopolitical Theories; propose the sociality, historicality, situationality and political pursues & power - knowledge structure, etc. Thus, the interpretation of the four classical Geopolitical Theories has formed.

3.1 Interpretation & analytical framework

The research on Classical Geopolitical Theory has two perspectives: spatial perspective and power perspective. These two perspectives are not only the starting point of interpretation of classical Geopolitical Theory, but also the basis of construction and interpretation of analytical framework. The power is not only an eternal subject of international politics, but also the primary cause of constituting and deciding the conflict and cooperation (Ye et al., 2008). Therefore, the power perspective can guide and analyze the change of strength between States and the short-board effect of individual state power. As one of the core concepts of geography, space has occupied a central position in geographical studies for a long time, thus having formed the spatial tradition of geographical research thereby (Hu, 2012). The spatial perspective can guide and analyze the spatial distribution of core national interests and the spatial conflict between States. In combination of spatial distribution of national interests, spatial conflicts between States, change of strength between States and short-board effect of individual state power, the main national geoborderunity in geopolitics can be defined, which constitutes macro-scale analysis.
After determining the main national geoborderunity, we can move on to meso-scale analysis, and focus on analysis of the relationship between States. The observer’s viewpoint and theoretical value targets or political pursuits depend on the State where the theory builder resides. Finally, we can come down to micro-scale analysis, i.e., the theory builder. The theory will be put forward under the influence of theory builder’s duty, academic background, personal preference, social background and other factors. The interpretation & analytical framework of classical Geopolitical Theory is shown in Figure 1 below. Thus, we can understand the scientific, hypothetical and political ideas of classical Geopolitical Theory.
Figure 1 The analysis framework of classical geopolitical theory

3.2 Interpretation of geographical pivot of history (Mackinder)

In order to interpret the four classical Geopolitical Theories, it is necessary to answer the following two questions: why did they propose their theories almost at the same time, i.e. “national organism theory” proposed by Ratzel for Germany, “land power theory” proposed by Mackinder for UK, and “sea power theory” proposed by Mahan for US? Why did Mackinder propose the land power theory (rather than sea power theory) for the UK? Why did Speakman change the sea power theory and propose the edge district theory for the US after the end of World War II? With these two questions, combined with the interpretation & analytical framework of classical Geopolitical Theory, this paper has comprehensively investigated the global scale, regional scale and theory builder. Herein the authors only take “The Geographical Pivot of History” (Mackinder, 2011) as an example; the analysis ideas have been shown in this paper; the analysis of the other three classical Geopolitical Theories is presented in the theoretical summary section.
“The Geographical Pivot of History” proposed by Mackinder was read out to the British Royal Geographical Society on January 25, 1904. From 1500 to 1763, the world started to be unified. By 1763, the world’s basic contours began to emerge, resulting in a global vision (Stavrianos, 2005). As a result of global unity, the global political and economic relations have undergone fundamental changes, and consequently, the world’s balance of power has undergone tremendous changes as well.
As it could be seen from Table 1, from the 18th century to the 20th century, the geo-economic pattern of the world and between regions and countries had significantly changed. The ratio between the world’s total GDP and the Western Europe’s GDP was increased continuously. Among the Western European countries, the GDP of the United Kingdom (UK) was growing rapidly. The ratio between the world’s total GDP and the Asia’s GDP was decreased. The GDP of Japan, China and India was decreased to different extents. The GDP of the former Soviet Union and the United States (US) was increased more rapidly. From the ratio between the world’s total GDP and the countries’ GDP, in the world’s geopolitical game theory, the main national geoborderunity was involved in nine countries as mentioned in Table 1. From 1783 (American Independence Day) to the end of the 19th century, its development could be roughly divided into three stages: Before 1861 (before the Civil War); 1861-1865 (during the Civil War); and 1865 (during the post-war period) (Ding, 2001). Therefore, before 1865, the spatial distribution of America’s national interests and the spatial conflicts between states were mainly concentrated in North America. After 1865, the United States began to shift from continental expansion to overseas expansion, and from the spatial distribution of national interests and the spatial conflicts between States to worldwide movements.
Table 1 Major national and regional GDP share of world GDP, 1700-2009
Year 1700 1820 1870 1913 1950 1973 1998 2009
France 5.7 5.5 6.5 5.3 4.1 4.3 3.4 3.0
Germany 3.6 3.8 6.5 8.8 5.0 5.9 4.3 4.0
Italy 3.6 3.8 6.5 8.8 3.1 3.6 3.0 2.5
The United Kingdom 2.9 5.2 9.1 8.3 6.5 4.2 3.3 3.1
The Former Soviet Union 4.4 5.4 7.6 8.6 9.6 9.4 3.4 -
The United States 0.1 1.8 8.9 19.1 27.3 22.0 21.9 20.4
Japan 4.1 3.0 2.3 2.6 3.0 7.7 7.7 6.0
China 22.3 32.9 17.2 8.9 4.5 4.6 11.5 12.6
India 24.4 16.0 12.2 7.6 4.2 3.1 5.0 5.1

Data sources: Angus Maddison [British author]. History of Thousand Years of World Economy. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010

By the end of the 19th century, national unity was the biggest issue that Germany was facing. Germany was unified as a Little German unified ethnically diversified nation successively by the German-Danish War (1864), the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco- Prussian War (1870-1871) (Li, 2005). Subsequently, Germany had experienced internal and external peaceful development for more than 40 years. Overpopulation was one of the main problems caused by the rapid economic development, which was particularly evident in Germany. Influenced by Social Darwinism, territorial expansion in Europe was considered as the only way to acquire the living space (Geoffrey, 1992). Therefore, for Germany, the spatial distribution of its national interests and inter-state conflicts were mainly concentrated in the neighboring countries.
From 1820 onwards, due to its technological progress and real income growth, the UK experienced accelerated development for a considerable long period. In 1783-1870, the British Empire kept growing with expansion. From the 19th to the 20th century, the British ruled over a vast empire, including the majority of North America, vast regions of the Caribbean Sea, vast land in the south of the Sahara Desert of Africa, the entire Indian Sub-continent and Australasia, Southeast Asia and Pacific regions, and even once controlled most regions in the Middle East (Marshall, 2004). Thus, the spatial distribution of Britain’s national interest and inter-state conflicts were mainly concentrated in its overseas colonies, especially in Eurasia.
After two weeks of Mackinder’s paper presentation, the Russo-Japanese War broke out. In the UK, it was a period of intense fear for Russia. Almost throughout the 19th century, the European powers did not pose a serious threat to the British Empire’s properties. But the British Empire still worried about the rise of two countries - the US and Russia. We can see from the above analysis of the US that, although the total economy in the US was quite close to that of the UK by the end of the 19th century, American overseas expansion just started. The protection of British and American overseas interests depended on the national naval power, while the short-board effect of American state power was just dependent on its national naval power. In the 1880s, the USN (U.S. Navy) was only a fleet consisting of 142 obsolete wooden structure vessels, excluding an ironclad warship, but including 12 large ocean-going ships. The British sailing boats & steamships and shipping capacities almost accounted for nearly one-third of the world’ total. The British naval power was far more than the US Navy power (Table 2). Therefore, the US did not constitute a deadly threat to the offshore national interests of the UK.
Table 2 The UK and the world’s marine shipping capacity, 1570-1913
Time Sailing boat Steamship Total shipping
Sailing boat Steamship Total shipping
UK World
1780 1000 0 1000 3950 0 3950
1820 2436 3 2448 5800 20 5880
1850 3397 168 4069 11400 800 14600
1900 2096 7208 30928 6500 22400 96100
1913 843 11273 45935 4200 41700 171000

Note: Data sources: Angus Maddison. History of Thousand Years of World Economy, P.88

As the UK was absolutely a maritime hegemonic power, only those great powers attacking the British colonies by land would impose a real threat to the British Empire. Thus, Russia would become a real threat to the Britain’s overseas national interests. In fact, from 1814 (failure of challenge to the UK and Europe by Napoleon) to 1914 (the World War I), the world plunged into the era of “Cold War” among great powers (i.e., Britain and Russia as the main rivals) lasting for 100 years. In order to deal with the threat from Russia, the British Empire sent troops for interference in Afghanistan in 1838 and 1842 so as to establish a pro-British regime, but suffered a complete defeat (Zhang, 2014). In 1873, the Russians controlled the last independent Khan regime (kava) in Central Asian. By 1884, Russia completely controlled the border regions of Afghanistan, and built a railway network there. The construction of such transport facilities provided powerful military supplies for Russia, so that Russia could easily launch an attack to India within a short range. In 1891, the Russians began to build the Great Siberia Railway, and asserted that Manchu (Northeast China) was their special sphere of influence. Relying on its powerful navy, the UK gradually extended its tentacles to all over the world, while Russia also gradually started to conquer the world depending on its overland railways. They became the main rivals who would contend for the world’s “real estate” (Figure 2).
Figure 2 Britain and Russia conflict and expansion in Central Asia,1864-1907
Note: Data sources: Martin Gilbert [British author]. Wang Yuhan [translator]. Map of Russian History. Beijing: China Youth Press, 2012: 60
After analyzing the complete ball scale and regional scale, we started to analyze the theory builders. Halford John Mackinder, the author of “The Geographical Pivot of History”, was born in Gainsborough Lincolnshire in 1861. In 1880, he went to the Oxford University to study natural sciences and modern history. In 1887, he read out the Scope and Method of Geography at the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain, and obtained a five-year lecturer seat at Oxford University. In 1889, he was appointed as the Head of the First Department of Geography founded in Oxford University ( Data sources: E.W. Gilbert, Introduction to “The Geographical Pivot of History”.). Since undertaking the work of Oxford University Club, he always took an intense interest in politics. In 1904, he presented “The Geographical Pivot of History” in order to apply his geographical thoughts to politics. In virtue of his theoretical research on politics, he became a politician engaged in political activities. In 1900 and 1909, he participated in the City Council election twice. In 1919-1920, he served as a senior British official in southern Russia, and acted as a member of British Royal Income Tax Service Board & Patented Invention Committee as well as the Chairman of British Empire Shipping Committee & British Empire Economic Committee.
Therefore, in order to understand why Mackinder has proposed the “land power theory”, it is necessary to combine his geographical thoughts with his political identity due to the “Hundred Years’ Great Cold War” between Britain and Russia. In Scope and Method of Geography, Mackinder explained geography and political geography, as well as the relationship between the two disciplines. Mackinder defined geography as a science as follows: its main function was to explore the interaction between human beings in society and in the locally-changing environment. Meanwhile, Mackinder urged the necessity for “combining natural geography with political geography”; he pointed out that, if political geography was not based on natural geography, rational political geography could not exist. His thoughts were fully reflected in his land power theory. In “The Geographical Pivot of History”, Mackinder pointed out: “I’m going to describe those natural characteristics of being the most coercive power on human actions; those natural characteristics have been organically combined with the history when they are not understood in geography, so that the history presents some of the key aspects”. In addition, he pointed out that, under pressure of foreign barbarians, Europe was able to achieve its civilization. In a very real sense, European civilization was the result of a long struggle against the Asian invasion.
According to the description of overall development of the UK and the world before and after 1900, we can easily understand why Mackinder has put forward two propositions in the land power theory as his theoretical construction principle. The first proposition is that, the world is a whole, and then has become a complete political system; the second proposition is that, the recent expansion of Russia may be of extreme importance to the world. Therefore, in order to guide the UK to maintain its hegemony, and prevent Russian from posing a threat to Britain, Mackinder has put forward the concept of Eurasia and Heartland. Any ship could not reach the Eurasia as a vast continent. However, in ancient times, a herdsman on horseback could move about freely and quickly in Eurasia. Today, the region to be covered with the railways is the world’s geo-political pivot area. Now, Russia has replaced the Mongol Empire, and will pose a greater threat to Finland, Scandinavia, Poland, Turkey, Persia, India and China than any attacks ever launched by the Mongol Empire. On account of expansion of pivotal countries to the marginal regions of Eurasia, the balance of power will be beneficial to Russia, so that Russia will be able to establish a fleet by taking advantage of the huge resources of this continent, and is thus likely to become the world empire. Therefore, in order to defend against this potential threat, France and the maritime powers will establish the Union; France, Italy, Egypt, India, and North Korea will become so many bridgeheads; the external navies of Britain, Japan, the United States and other countries can support land forces from these bridgeheads, in order to force the pivotal Union to also establish the land forces so as to prevent them from mobilizing all energies to create the fleet.

3.3 Summary of the classical geopolitical theory

The similar analysis can be also adapted to Ratzel’s “national organism theory”, Mahan’s “sea power theory” and Speakman’s “edge district theory”. However, it must be noted that, there are differences between “National organism theory” and the other three theories. Such theories are at different levels of Geopolitical Theory System. The national organism theory refers to a theory on exploring the nature of state. The other three theories are at the geo-strategic levels. Through comparative analysis, we can answer the two questions as stated above: The first question: Why did Mackinder, Mahan and Ratzel propose the three different theories almost at the same time? From the perspective of critical geopolitics, there are several reasons behind the answer to this question: Firstly, there are background differences among theory builders. As a geographer, Mackinder is keenly interested in politics; moreover, as a geographer and politician, Mackinder has always emphasized the impact of geography on history. As a US Navy officer, Mahan has been heavily influenced by Ancient Greece Athens Navy Commander in Chief Themistocles and Politician Pericles; meanwhile, as a naval historian, Mahan has intensively studied the impact of sea power and sea supremacy on history. As a geographer, having received specialized training in biology, Ratzel is good at studying all political and geographical issues by means of biological evolutionary theory or biological analogy method. Secondly, the countries where the theory builders settle are faced with different problems. At that time, the problem faced by the UK was how to resist the threat of Russian expansion to its colonial rule; the problem faced by the US was how to ensure the safety of its overseas trade channels and enhance its international status; the problem faced by Germany was how to deal with the dramatic increase in population along with the rapid economic development after the national unity and enhance its international status. Thirdly, there are differences in the spatial distribution of national interest and the inter-state conflicts. At that time, the spatial distribution of Britain’s national interests was mainly concentrated in its overseas colonies, especially geographical conflicts between Britain and Russia; the spatial distribution of American national interests began to shift from at home to abroad, especially maritime trade and transport security conflicts; the spatial distribution of Germany’s national interests mainly concentrated on its surrounding regions, especially conflicts between Germany and its neighboring countries.
The second question: Why did Mackinder propose the land power theory (rather than sea power theory) for Britain (an island country)? Why did Speakman modify the sea power theory and put forward the edge district theory? The land power theory proposed by Mackinder for the island country was related to the spatial distribution of the Britain’s national interests and inter-state conflicts. Meanwhile, since it was a maritime hegemonic power at that time, Britain was likely to no longer put forward a similar sea power theory; otherwise, it would put its maritime hegemony on the path toward a deep recession. Similarly, after the World War II, the US exclusively dominated the world, surpassed the Britain, and considered as the maritime hegemonic power. Therefore, it was inappropriate to continue with the sea power theory. The US took part in the two World Wars in order to prevent the great powers of Eurasia from controlling the marginal regions. At that time, America’s national interests and inter-state conflicts extended all over Eurasia.
Through the critical geopolitics interpretation of four classical Geopolitical Theories, this study has provided further evidence of three significant characteristics as specified in critical geopolitics, namely, situationality, diversity of viewpoint, non-neutrality of value, discursive power relations and political connotation of the Geopolitical Theory. For specific analysis and interpretation, please see Table 3.
Table 3 Summary of classical geopolitical theory based on a critical perspective
Land power theory Sea power theory National organism theory Edge district theory
Time of proposal 1904 1898 1896 1944
Author / country Mackinder / UK Mahan / US Ratzel / Germany Speakman / US
Background of author
Discipline background
Political scientist
Naval historian
Navy strategist
Having received specialized training in biology
Geopolitical strategist
International relation scholar
Viewpoint / concept Political geography is based on the natural geography. Might is right. The social organic system is similar to the biological organism, subject to the laws of nature. Geographical determinism
Scientificity The sea power is subject to the land forces. The improvement of naval strength will contribute to the improvement of national strength and the protection of overseas trade security. Along with the economic development and population growth, the country needs more land to maintain the economic and population growth. A great naval power needs to fight against land powers with the help of land bridgehead countries.
Hypothesis On account of its expansion to the edge zone of Eurasia, the pivotal country can create a fleet by taking advantage of the huge continental resources, so that then the world is in sight. In the final analysis, since it has secured the absolute command of sea and has built the most powerful navy, the state will become stronger and more prosperous. There are seven laws of national spatial growth. Whether in wartime or in peacetime, the US must prevent several power centers from uniformly linking up against its interests.
Historicality Hundred Years’ Great Cold War between Britain and Russia
Russian expansion in Europe and Asia
Surge in overseas trade; interception of the US Merchant Marine by British Royal Navy in the early days; trade embargo during the Napoleonic Wars; National united war, instability of economic growth and continuous growth of population Experiences of the United States in entering the World War I & II
Sociality / situationality The Great Britain was actively expanding overseas, establishing its colonies, and striving for hegemony all over the world. The United States was wandering between conservative isolationism and aggressive overseas expansion. The unstable economic growth and continuous population growth of Germany would put the tremendous pressure on its living space. The America’s GDP share of the world’s total GDP was up to nearly 30%. The United States completely dominated the world in the economy and military.
Political pursues
Value targets
Serve the British overseas colonial expansion and world hegemony. Enhance the naval strength; expand the overseas trade and colonies; ensure the maritime transport security; Enhance the international status of Germany; implement the imperialism and “world politics”. Adapt to the American strategic vision of postwar world hegemony.
Geographic knowledge - power The pivotal country has its nature of overseas expansion and aggression as described above. All other countries should be united against the pivotal country. The United States has the basic conditions for building up a strong navy. The national system is similar to the biological organism, subject to the laws of nature. Therefore, the nation’s expansion is inevitable. The great power in the Eurasian region has its nature of expansion and control of marginal regions.

4 Discussion and implications

Through the above analysis, we shall pay close attention to the theory-building process of classical Geopolitical Theory, comprehensively understand the ontology, epistemology, methodology and axiology of Geopolitical Theory, and especially restore the historicality, sociality, situationality and power - knowledge structure of Geopolitical Theory, but we shall not be limited to or restricted to its conclusion or some remarks. Marx pointed out that, if the manifestation and nature of things could be directly combined into one, all of sciences would become superfluous (Marx et al., 1971). It is of great significance in gaining enlightenment from construction of peaceful geopolitical strategies under the background of rising China.
Firstly, in combination with the development of critical geopolitics, as can be seen from the analysis of this paper, there is no so-called eternal truth in classical Geopolitical Theory. The theory construction depends on the international pattern, national conditions, theory builders and other factors. The direction for theoretical construction is determined by spatial distribution of national interests, national strength, geographical conflicts between States and short-board effect of state power. Currently, our national strength ranks the second in the world, while the short-board effect of state power is considered as naval power. Although our national interests are distributed all over the world, the geographical conflicts between States are mainly concentrated in China’s neighboring countries. Meanwhile, China is a country of both land and sea. Therefore, construction of geo-strategy for China’s peaceful rise in the future shall take this as a starting point.
Secondly, as can be seen from a global scale, the US has not only built up its advantageous geopolitical pattern under its powerful economic and military backgrounds, but also controlled the main maritime transport hub. Nevertheless, the goal of China’s peaceful rise is to neither dominate the world nor strive for hegemony with the US. This determines the difference between China’s future peaceful geo-strategy and classical Geopolitical Theory. We consider that, faced with the facts that the US will strengthen its strategic alliance with neighboring countries of China after returning to the Asia-Pacific, China should adopt “cold treatment” in order to strengthen economic, social and cultural cooperation with its neighboring countries. Meanwhile, by excavating the Carat Strait Canal & Nicaragua canal and modifying the Pan-Asia Railway and other infrastructures, we can weaken the control of the US over the maritime strategy passage so as to take the initiative to strengthen China’s own national maritime transport security & protection.
Finally, this paper has also proved the correctness of “OBAO (One Belt and One Road)” strategy currently put forward by China. The “OBAO (One Belt and One Road)” strategy refers to a geo-strategy for building peaceful development, mutual benefit and win-win by strengthening economic exchanges between States. This can not only avoid world hegemony and head-on confrontation with the US, but also prevent any geopolitical containment of China when the US “returns to the Asia-Pacific” by building a three-dimensional traffic network of land, sea and air. It is conducive to the formation of “community of interest” and “community of destiny” between States. This is fully consistent with the analysis in the abovementioned two points.
Entering the new century, China is in a crucial period of great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and national comprehensive development. Faced with the extremely complex and volatile international environment, we shall strengthen our theoretical study of geopolitical environment; these studies are of great value, both in theory and in practice, for the formulation of national rejuvenation, security and development strategies. In recent years, Chinese geographers have begun to strengthen their study of geopolitics; relevant units have established geopolitical research centers. However, currently, we have excessively placed particular stress on technical and empirical research, without attaching sufficient importance to theoretical research. Compared with other sub-disciplines related to human geography, the development of geopolitics as a main research direction of political geography has significantly lagged behind (Hu et al., 2013). Our geographers shall seize the opportunity to strengthen research on geopolitics and make greater contributions to China.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Anderson B, 2010. Morale and the affective geographies of the war on terror.Cultural Geographies, 17(2): 219-236.Tears of the rotator cuff may be repaired by single- or double-row techniques. Single-row methods do not restore the rotator cuff footprint but do provide a good functional outcome. We surveyed the literature to ascertain the origin of the current trend of using double-row methods of repair. The footprint repair is a benefit of double-row fixation with strong evidence of its biomechanical success. However, the functional outcome of double-row fixation is equivalent to single-row fixation. Given the lack of scientific evidence and despite the enthusiasm of surgeons for this new technique, single-row fixation remains an acceptable method for managing these injuries, and it is our opinion that it is the preferable method.


Boland A, 2000. Feeding fears: Completing discourses of interdependency, sovereignty and China’s food security.Political Geography, 19(1): 55-76.Following the release of the 1994 report ‘Who will feed China?’ by the Worldwatch Institute, there has been much debate over the implications of China's growing demand for grain. The question of China's food production has elicited a variety of responses. While for some it raises the specter of regional and global instability as China becomes an environmental threat, for others the entrance of China into the world market promises increased trade and profits. In this paper I explore the responses in China and the US to the different notions of interdependence which have shaped the debate. I first turn to how concerns over China's food supply have, despite appeals to the concepts of global environmental and economic interdependence, become linked to classical state-centered geopolitical concerns such as ‘sovereignty’ and ‘containment.’ I then look at how the debate has also been actively distanced from national security concerns through the invocation of an alternative interdependence founded on the logic of commerce. I conclude by arguing for the need within critical geopolitics to further examine the circulation of strategic texts between and within states, particularly in the analysis of texts that map worlds beyond the boundaries of North America and Europe.


Brzezinski Z, 2012. Big Chess: U.S. Primacy and Its Geopolitical Strategy. Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House. (in Chinese)

Carter S, McCormack D, 2006. Geopolitics, film, and the affective logics of intervention.Political Geography, 25(2): 228-245.ABSTRACT This paper explores the way in which questions of affect are implicated in the relation between film and popular articulations of geopolitics. Recent work in political and cultural geography has foregrounded the role of affect in the performative enactment of space and spacing. Drawing upon such work, in this paper we explore the particular role of film as an affective assemblage through which geopolitical sensibilities emerge and are amplified. More specifically, we argue that the relation between cinema and enactments of geopolitical intervention must be understood not only in terms of the way one reproduces or subverts the discursively framed codes and scripts of the other but also in terms of the amplification and anchoring of particular affects through specific tactics and techniques. We illustrate this through a brief discussion of how the relations between the affective and geopolitical logics of intervention are implicated in U.S. involvement in Somalia in 1993 and its depiction in the 2002 film Black Hawk Down. In moving towards a conclusion, we draw upon this engagement with film in order to point to the possibilities for a more expansive engagement with the role played by the logics of affect in contemporary geopolitical cultures.


Chen Yugang, Zhou Chao, Qin Qian, 2012. Critical geopolitics and the development of geopolitics at the South Pole.World Economics and Politics, (10): 116-131. (in Chinese)

Cosgrove D, 2008. Geography is everywhere: Cultural and symbolism in human landscapes. In: Greogry D, Walford R (eds.). Horizons in Human Geography. London: Palgrave Macmillan.First page of article


Dalby S, 1991a. American security discourse: The persistence of geopolitics.Political Geography, 9(2): 171-188.

Dalby S, 1991b. Critical geopolitics: Discourse, difference, and dissent.Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 9(3): 261-283.Afforestation is not subject to development control in Britain, but local planning authorities may exert an influence on it through consultation procedures relating to Forestry Commission planting grants. The operation of these procedures in Scotland in 1988-89 is reviewed. Their analysis suggests a high rate of outcomes in accordance with requests from local planning authorities. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction has been expressed over the working of the consultation procedures. The paradox of apparent performance and dissatisfaction is discussed.


Dalby S, 2010. Recontextualising violence, power and nature: The next twenty years of critical geopolitics.Political Geography, 29(5): 280-288.<h2 class="secHeading" id="section_abstract">Abstract</h2><p id="">Twenty years ago the intellectual projects that have become known as critical geopolitics emerged at the end of the cold war as a series of critiques of geopolitical reasoning. Drawing heavily on Edward Said's formulations of Orientalism the critical analyses probed the dense cultural productions of danger, the rationalisations for intervention and the logics of &ldquo;Western&rdquo; foreign policies. The geographical specifications of the world in the political discourses used to justify numerous imperial actions, and the rationales for the provision of security came under sustained scrutiny. Now two decades later despite the supposed end of history and endless invocations of globalization, the themes of empire and Orientalism remain at the heart of the Western geopolitical imaginary, explicitly structuring how the security intellectuals of our time plan for war and justify the construction of their military machines. Given the continuing dangers of warfare in a biosphere that is being radically destabilized by the modes of economy and violence these geopolitical texts legitimize, the necessity for critique remains compelling. But given the proliferation of uses of the term critical geopolitics, and the numerous disciplinary concerns encompassed by it, perhaps the time has come to narrow its focus once again to its core themes which involve confronting and challenging the geographical reasoning used in the legitimizations of contemporary warfare.</p>


Ding Zeming, 2001. The American History: The American Civil War and the Gilded Age, 1861: The End of the 19th Century. Beijing: People’s Publishing House (in Chinese)

Dodds K, 2001. Political geography III: Critical geopolitics after ten year.Progress in Human Geography, 25(3): 469-484.I Introduction Nearly ten years ago, Gearoid 01“ Tuathail and John Agnew published a paper 0900Geopolitics and discourse: practical geopolitical reasoning in American foreign policy0964 (1992) in Political Geography.[sup 1] Their analysis precipitated a research agenda, which conceptualized geopolitics as a form of political discourse rather than simply a descriptive term intended to cover the study of foreign policy and grand statecraft (see 01“ Tuathail, 1986; Dalby, 1988; and indirectly Waterman, 1998). This paper in alliance with an earlier geo-economic analysis of the world economy (Agnew and Corbridge, 1989), urged political geographers to investigate not only the politics of geographical knowledge but also the geographies of the changing world economy. They argued that geopolitics0964 close association with Halford Mackinder and others had obscured the extent to which all models of global politics are informed or even guided by geographical understandings (see Agnew, 1983). As a then doctoral student at the University of Bristol, I read this paper with great excitement. Enriched with a critical geopolitical appreciation, I returned to my archival material and (over the next eight years) investigated how the Falklands/Malvinas and Antarctica were represented within British and Argentine geopolitical cultures (see Dodds, 2000a; 2000b).


Dodds K, 2007. Steve Bell’s eye: Cartoons, popular geopolitics and the war on terror.Security Dialogue, 38(2): 157-177.We investigated the role of regionally discrete GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the sedative response to pharmacological agents that act on GABA(A) receptors (muscimol, propofol and pentobarbital; 'GABAergic agents') and to ketamine, a general anesthetic that does not affect GABA(A) receptors. Behavioral studies in rats showed that the sedative response to centrally administered GABAergic agents was attenuated by the GABA(A) receptor antagonist gabazine (systemically administered). The sedative response to ketamine, by contrast, was unaffected by gabazine. Using c-Fos as a marker of neuronal activation, we identified a possible role for the tuberomammillary nucleus (TMN): when gabazine was microinjected directly into the TMN, it attenuated the sedative response to GABAergic agents. Furthermore, the GABA(A) receptor agonist muscimol produced a dose-dependent sedation when it was administered into the TMN. We conclude that the TMN is a discrete neural locus that has a key role in the sedative response to GABAergic anesthetics.


Dodds K, Atkinson D, 2000. Geopolitical Traditions: A Century of Geopolitical Thought. London: Routledge.

Du Debin, Ma Yahua, 2012. Geography of containment and anti-containment of China’s peaceful rise.World Regional Studies, 21(1): 1-16. (in Chinese)

Fenster T, 1996. Ethnicity and citizen identity in planning and development for minority groups.Political Geography, 15(5): 405-418.The paper focuses on the problems of identifying ethnic and citizen needs among immigrants and indigenous societies that pass a rapid process of social change. The paper outlines the model of ethnicity versus citizenship with regard to two main approaches to social change: the assimilationist and the pluralist. This model is used to analyse two development experiences: those of the Ethiopian Jews and the Bedouin in the Negev. Another analytical tool presented in the paper is the definition of discrimination in development projects, also using the terms of ethnic and citizen needs. The paper concludes with suggested guidelines for formulating ‘ethnically sensitive planning’, an approach which, it is believed, can do much to ease the process of transition of ethnic groups and immigrants.


Gachechiladze R, 1997. National idea, state-building and boundaries in the post-Soviet space (the case of Georgia).GeoJournal, 43(1): 51-60.The emergence of the Newly Independent States at the end of 1991, although due to the coincidence of historical events, was a logical outcome of the political crisis within the USSR. The nations had been actively formed during the Soviet period and they considered their homeland the territory which bore the name of a definite nationality. Since all the Union republics were multi-ethnic entities it is rather hard for them to form the nation-states up to present. Citizenship is just being formed and in many areas the ‘state-idea’ is still to emerge. Georgia, a NIS in the Transcaucasus, bears most of the common features of the post-Soviet political space. But it has distinct peculiarities in state-building due to its location and historical legacy. The national self-identity of the Georgians was formed quite a long time ago, but some geopolitical problems may temporarily hinder the formation of stable boundaries of this NIS.


Ge Hanwen, 2010a. The development of critical geopolitics and geopolitical research in the future.International Review, (4): 42-48. (in Chinese)

Ge Hanwen, 2010b. Rethinking and reconstruction of geopolitics.Journal of Nanjing University, (6): 86-89. (in Chinese)With the development of world politics in recent years,the shortages and mistakes of traditional geopolitical thought have greatly appeared.Therefore,some scholars reshape the traditional geopolitical thought by criticizing the ontology and epistemology of geopolitics,in accordance with the newly-developed characteristics of the world,by expanding the research range and correcting the wrong value approach of traditional geopolitical thought.

Hepple L, 1986. The revival geopolitics.Political Geography Quarterly, 5(4): s21-s36.This paper chronicles the revival of geopolitical writing and analysis in North America and Europe since 1970, after 20 years of decline. The revival is examined in terms of both language and substance, and the reasons for the revival are explored. As well as its role in the analysis of global and regional strategy, geopolitics has entered popular language and political discourse. The contributions of geographers are discussed, and the opportunities and dangers of the revival are examined. The importance of historical and political critique is argued.


Hu Zhiding, Cao Yuan, Liu Yuli et al., 2013. A new development of political geography research in China: Geo-setting.Human Geography, 28(5): 123-128. (in Chinese)In China, the study of political geography has a long history. However, compared with the development of economic geography, urban geography, tourism geography and other branches of geography, political geography has not been well developed. Political geography of this situation in China does not meet the important international status and the diplomatic mission of "maintenance of rights, maintenance of stability,cooperation and development", special in the rise of China in the 21st century. This paper will define the concepts associated with geo-setting based on the review of the history of political geography, early geo-environment points and the two discussions at geo-setting conferences recently. Also, this study will pay attention to the concepts, component, classification, scale of geo-setting and research content of geo-setting. Geosetting is completely different with geographical environment, the geographical environment is an integral part of the geo-setting. In addition, geo-setting also includes geo-relationship, and the structure constituted by the geo-relationship. Geo-relationship is constituted of geopolitical military relations, geo-economic relations and geo-social relations. Currently, geo-setting study should focus on four areas:(1) the comparison of different scale geo- setting spatial differentiation, which is one of the important content of geo- setting;(2)evaluation of the simple and comprehensive geo- setting security in different scales, geo- setting has four scales and different security has different factors.(3) geo-setting theory summary and promotion, geo-setting research expands its research content, equates other security with military security, it will lead to a new theory of geopolitics;(4) geo-setting and international political interaction. We hope it can play a valuable feedback results, and can promote the development of political geography in China.

Hu Zhiding, Ge Yejing, Xu Jianwei et al., 2012. Space and the construction of economic geography.Progress in Geography, 31(6): 211-216. (in Chinese)Space is one of the core concepts of geography,and space has been playing a central role in geography study for a long time.Geographers nderstanding towards space is in constant evolvement and development caused by the impacts and inspiration of many subjects and the profound impacts from philosophers and sociologists in particular.As one of the important branch disciplines of geography,economic geography has experienced a number of changes in the trend of thought and experienced the rise of the branch within a history of less than 100 years.All these cannot be separated from the fact that economic geography is rooted in space,and it is space that sustains the source of theoretical innovation in economic geography.The article explains the concept of space in geography with the development of economic geography for clues to further confirm the above viewpoints.Furthermore,the article holds that space cannot be condescended to the parallel position as place,location and region,for space contains the latter ones.Therefore,the first position should be conferred upon space.We should not ignore methodological innovation in economic geography either,for each breakthrough in understanding towards space is surely accompanied by a certain innovative research method.However,innovation of method has to be put in the second position,because every innovation of method always follows the change of the understanding towards space.

Hu Zhiding, Luo Huasong, Ge Yuejing, 2014. Research perspectives of classical geopolitical theories and the enlightenment for developing China’s new geopolitical theory.Tropical Geography, 34(2): 184-190. (in Chinese)<p>From a general survey on world history, it can be found that a country&rsquo;s rise would affect the global stability and geopolitical pattern. So far, geopolitics has developed four classic geopolitical theories, namely, the national organism theory, the sea power theory, the land power theory and the edge zone theory. Each theory is based on the national reality, geopolitical pattern and geographical conflict of the presenter&rsquo;s country. With the rise of China, her overseas trade surges, and the conflicts between China and peripheral countries also increase. In order to achieve a peaceful rise, China needs corresponding theoretical guidance from geopolitics. Based on the text interpretation of the four classic geopolitical theories, this paper integrates the perspectives of the four classic geopolitical theories into two kinds, namely, the perspective of space and that of power. The land power theory and the edge zone theory are of the perspective of space, the sea power theory is of the perspective of power, and the national organism theory combines the two perspectives. Having studied the geographical conflicts and the national strength changes of Great Britain and the United States in different time, this paper confirms that the above-mentioned two perspectives are correct. Taking UK, USA and Japan as examples, the paper analyses the defect of the classic geopolitical theories, that is the reasonability in theory and the infeasibility in practice. The defect is mainly referred to that the sea power theory might mislead countries to ignore their geographical environment, while the land power theory would mislead them to overlook the power of the sea. In addition, there exist both practical and theoretical difficulty in classical geopolitical theories. The practical difficulty is referred to that any theory is the product of a particular historical context, that can not meet the realistic needs of the contemporary development; theoretical dilemma is referred to that the classic geopolitical theory places too much emphasis on material factors, ignoring the intangible factors. Finally, the paper puts forward three suggestions for the development of China&rsquo;s new geopolitical theory: 1) the new geopolitical theory should meet China&rsquo;s current needs to cope with the space conflict; 2) the new theory should meet the size of China&rsquo;s strength or power; 3) the new theory should help to build China&rsquo;s geo-spatial relationship. Combined with the new development of western political geography, this paper briefly discusses the development direction of political geography in China.</p>

Huang Fengzhi, Jin Xin, 2012. The dilemma and innovation of theory of geopolitics.International Forum, 14(3): 1-6. (in Chinese)

Hyndman J, 2010. The question of ‘the political’ in critical geopolitics: Querying the ‘child soldier’ in the ‘war on terror’.Political Geography, 29:;h2 class="secHeading" id="section_abstract">Abstract</h2><p id="">After two decades of scholarship on &lsquo;critical geopolitics&rsquo; the question of whether it is largely a discursive critique of prevailing knowledge production and geopolitical texts or critique with an implicit, normative politics of its own remains open. These positions are not incommensurate, and much scholarship on critical geopolitics does both. This paper analyzes critical geopoliticians' concern with this question in the present historical moment and probes the possibility of a post-foundational ethic as the basis for &lsquo;the political&rsquo; in critical geopolitics and beyond. Empirically, this paper explores these theoretical tensions within &lsquo;critical geopolitics&rsquo; by tracing the disparate fates of two young men, both child soldiers at the time of their capture. &lsquo;Child soldier&rsquo; is an unstable category subject to geopolitical valence and stigma during the &lsquo;war on terror&rsquo;. The deployment of extra-legal tactics and spaces of violence, such as those faced by detainees at Guantanamo Bay, point to the rise of biopolitics combined with geopolitics, illustrating the intersection of sovereignty and governmentality as important political fodder for critical geopolitics two decades after its inception. The stories of Canadian Omar Khadr, one of the youngest prisoners at Guantanamo and the only citizen of a Western state still held there, and Ismael Beah, a rehabilitated soldier who fought as a boy from Sierra Leone, illustrate too how geographical imagination strongly shapes access to provisions of international law and the victimized status of &lsquo;child soldier&rsquo; in particular.</p>


Jones L, Daniel S, 2010. New directions in critical geopolitics: An introduction.GeoJournal, 75(4): 315-325.No Abstract available for this article.


Kissinger H A, 2012. Big Diplomacy. Hainan: Hainan Press. (in Chinese)

Li Gongzhen, 2005. Deutsche Road: Modernization Study. Hubei: Wuhan University Press. (in Chinese)Previous chapters drew a picture of popular life from the images in Shenbao of various subjects. In the chapter on cigarette advertisements, the tension between commercialism, nationalism, and persona


Luke T, Ó Tuathail G, 1997. On videocameralistics: The geopolitics of failed state, the CNN International and (UN) governability.Review of International Political Economy, 4(4): 709-733.ABSTRACT The discourse of state failure is a post-Cold War era phenomenon which provides a point of entry into the problematic of global regulation and governance after the Cold War. The mass media spectacles of chaos in the 1990s-in Iraq, Somalia and Rwanda-are windows into three overlap ping dynamics which are re-mastering regulation and governance in the post-Cold War world. The first of these dynamics is the specter of state failure in international politics. The second is the power of global media machines as omnipresent visualization technologies, which are infecting and disrupting the political project of envisioning global order by hegemonic institutions and actors. The third dynamic is the regulatory imperatives of economic growth and political stability exerted by hege monic states and institutions upon the strong and the weak alike. This article seeks to theorize critically the webs of power spun by all three, elaborating in the process a Foucauldian-inspired concept-videocamer alistics-to describe their interweaving operation.


Luo Dadao, Du Debin, 2013. Some thoughts on the strengthening of geopolitical and geoeconomic studies.Acta Geographica Sinica, 68(6): 723-727. (in Chinese)The rise and fall of the great powers undoubtedly is not dominated by geo-political and geo-economic rules. Since the end of the Cold War, with the rapid economic development of China and other emerging countries, the international power structure is undergoing profound restructuring and the world is entering the new geo-political and geo-economic era. At present, China's geopolitical environment has become increasingly complex and its peaceful development urgently needs geopolitical and geo-economic theoretical support. Based on analysis of the current world geopolitical and geo-economic development trend, this paper discusses the ideological origins on the fundamental role of geography in the development of geopolitics and geo-economics; analyzes the deficiencies of the Chinese geographers in the field of geopolitics and geo-economics; and then puts forward some suggestions how to strengthen the geopolitical geo-economic studies.

Mackinder H J, 2011. The Geographical Pivot of History. Beijing: The Commercial Press. (in Chinese)

Mahan A T, 2006. The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Beijing: The People’s Liberation Army Press. (in Chinese)

Marcus P, David C, 2010. The state of critical geopolitics.Political Geography, 29(6): 243-246.The smallest image patch produced by an optical unit at the focal plane of a camera can be appreciably larger than the size of pixels in the CCD used to record the image. This optical limit on spatial resolution, when taken into consideration together with the sensor's influence on image quality, should always be a part of any estimation made of the ground sample distance (GSD) attributed to a camera. A list is given of the GSDs obtained by five examples of high-resolution satellite cameras when full allowance is made for the effect of an optical unit in a camera system.


Marshall P J, 2004. The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire. Beijing: World Affairs Press.

Martin M, 2008. Reconsidering the concept of discourse for the field of critical geopolitics: Towards discourse as language and practice.Political Geography, 27(3): 322-338.<h2 class="secHeading" id="section_abstract">Abstract</h2><p id="">This paper seeks to advance the theoretical discussion on the concept of discourse in the field of critical geopolitics and address the growing dissatisfaction with its value as an instrument of social inquiry. It does so in a two-fold manner: first, it aims to contribute to conceptual clarity, particularly concerning the different applications of the concept of discourse in agency theory and poststructuralist critique, and second, by extending this initial groundwork, it urges a reconceptualization of the concept of discourse, which affords a broader view of the social. Drawing primarily on Michel Foucault's methodological archaeology, I problematize the way the autonomy of the subject has been conceptualized in discourse and argue in favor of dissolving the self-identical subject into multiple subject positions. Deriving from this argument the need for a clearer distinction between narratives and discourses, I then follow the work of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe to conceptualize discourse not only as language, but also as language <em>and</em> practice. As I seek to demonstrate, this broader notion of discourse can contribute to a more comprehensive understanding and analysis of the discursive constitution of geopolitical identities, while retaining the critical edge that has become the hallmark of critical geopolitics.</p>


Marx, Engles, 1971. The Corpora of Marx and Engles: Volume 20. Beijing: People’s Publishing House.

Megoran, N, 2006. For ethnography in political geography: Experiencing and reimagining Ferghana Valley boundary closures.Political Geography, 25(3): 622-640.Political geographers have produced extensive and valuable bodies of knowledge on both international boundaries and geopolitics. However, an emphasis on discourse study means that these literatures are in danger of becoming both repetitious and lopsided, relegating or even erasing people's experiences and everyday understandings of the phenomena under question. This article suggests that ethnographic participant observation, a method largely neglected by political geographers, could be used to address these imbalances and open new research directions. This argument is demonstrated by a study of the impact of the partial closure in 1999–2000 of the Uzbekistan–Kyrgyzstan Ferghana Valley boundary. Post-Soviet time was hyper-accelerated by the belated imposition of the logic of nation–states onto the existing social geographies of kinship practice. The legal–constitutional division of the Valley in 1991 only ‘caught up’ with the lived experiences of borderland dwellers in 1999. The sudden collapse of this ‘political geographical time-lag’ forced upon them the traumatic realisation that Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan really were two separate countries. In this context, using ethnography to highlight discrepancies between elite and everyday political geographical imaginations informs a critique of state violence that is parallel to, but not a replacement of, textual analyses informed by critical social theory.


Momtaz D, 1996. The United Nations and the protection of the environment: From Stockholm to Rio de Janeiro.Political Geography, 15(3): 261-272.Although environmental protection is not specifically mentioned in the Charter of the United Nations, the organization has perforce become the leading catalyst for and coordinator of activities in this field. The UN Conference on the Environment (Stockholm, 1972) and the UN Conference on the Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) adopted principles and recommendations that have guided the environmental protection activities of the UN and individual states. This paper analyses the role of the UN in developing and executing international environmental law, particularly in the areas of the marine environment, pollution of fresh water, degradation of the atmosphere, biodiversity and desertification. The work of the UN Environment Programme and the UN Commission on Sustainable Development receive special attention. Finally, the problems of ‘treaty congestion’, the lack of an overall framework for regulating human/environment interactions, and adequate financing of environmental programmes are discussed.


Murphy D, 1997. The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany 1918-1933. Kent Ohio: Kent State University Press.

Ó Tuathail G, 1986. The language and nature of the new geopolitics: The case of US-EI Salvador relations.Political Geography Quarterly, (5): 73-85.

Ó Tuathail G, 1996. Critical Geopolitical: The Politics of Writing Global Space. London: Routledge.


Ó Tuathail G, 1999. Understanding critical geopolitics and risk society. In: Colin S Gray, Geoffrey Sloan. Geopolitics, Geography and Strategy. London: Frank Cass.Critical geopolitics is a perspective within contemporary political geography that investigates the politics of geographical knowledge in international relations. It has four different dimensions: formal, practical, popular and structural geopolitics. All four dimensions are introduced and briefly illustrated with reference to Sir Halford Mackinder, the discourse of 'Ballcanism', and the processes shaping the contemporary geopolitical condition. These processes, globalization, informationalization and proliferating techno-scientific risks, force a re-thinking of geopolitics in what Ulrich Beck terms a 'risk society'. Three critical geopolitical arguments about the dilemmas of geopolitics in risk society comprise the conclusion.


Ó Tuathail G, 2003. Just out looking for a fight: American affect and the invasion of Iraq.Antipode, 35(5): 856-870.Using a small substrate (thymidine 5'-(p-nitrophenyl phosphate) 3'-phosphate), the kinetics of staphylococcal nuclease insolubilized on CNBr-activated Sepharoses 4B and 6B are affected by internal diffusional limitations. Since we demonstrate that we are working under conditions in which external mass-transfer resistances do not influence the reaction rate, we propose a simple theoretical model that considers only the case of mixed enzymic reaction-internal diffusion kinetics. In the Eadie-Hofstee plots we find very good agreement between theory and experiment. The model accounts very well for the results obtained by changing support texture, reaction conditions, and/or enzyme concentration in the insoluble derivatives, variables that modify the diffusional restrictions of the system.


Ó Tuathail G, Agnew J, 1992. Geopolitics and discourse: Practical geopolitical reasoning in American foreign policy.Political Geography, 11(2): 190-204.This paper argues for the re-conceptualization of geopolitics using the concept of discourse. Geopolitics is defined as a discursive practice by which intellectuals of statecraft ‘spatialize’ international politics and represent it as a ‘world’ characterized by particular types of places, peoples and dramas. Four theses explicating this re-conceptualization are outlined including the distinction between ‘formal’ and ‘practical’ geopolitics. These arguments are illustrated by a general discussion of practical geopolitical reasoning in US foreign policy which includes an analysis of George Kennan's ‘Long Telegram’ and ‘Mr X’ article representations of the USSR. The irony of such practical geopolitical representations of place is that they necessitate the abrogation of genuine geographical knowledge about the diversity and complexity of places as social entities. Geopolitical reasoning, it is concluded, ironically works by being anti-geographical.


Ó Tuathail G, Sinon Dalby, 1998. Rethinking Geopolitics. London and New York: Routledge.

Paasi A, 2000. Rethinking geopolitics.Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18(2): 282-284.

Paasi A, 2006. Texts and contexts in the globalizing academic marketplace: Comments on the debate on geopolitical remote sensing.Eurasian Geography and Economics, 47(2): 216-220.ABSTRACT A prominent political geographer adds to the exchange of views presented in the two preceding papers in this issue of Eurasian Geography and Economics (Antonsich, 2006; Moisio and Harle, 2006). His comments extend beyond the debate on geopolitical remote sensing (a term originated by the author) to the need to more fully contextualize concepts and practices in human geographic research and to examine more closely the role played by internationalizing (and English language-dominated) publishing markets in the review and publication of papers that increasingly cross the borders of linguistic contexts.


Parker G, 1998. Geopolitics: Past, Present and Future. London: Croom Helm.Abstract Incluye bibliografía


Pepper J, Jenkins A, 1985. The Geography of Peace and War. London: Croom Helm.


Pinkerton A, Dodds K, 2009. Radio geopolitics: Broadcasting, listening and the struggle for acoustic spaces.Progress in Human Geography, 33(1): 10-27.ABSTRACT This paper considers some of the interdisciplinary scholarship on radio and sound more generally for the purposes of considering how geopolitical scholarship might reconsider its predominantly visual focus. The first part considers radio and its relationship to studies of propaganda, international diplomacy and even everyday life. Thereafter, attention is given to new themes such as researching radio cultures, broadcasting infrastructure and technology and, finally, the affective impacts of radio on audiences. The conclusion of this paper urges further critical consideration of radio, sound and broadcasting/listener engagement with the well-established geographical literature on music.


Reuber P, 2000. Conflict studies and critical geopolitics: Theoretical concepts and recent research in political geography.GeoJournal, 50(1): 37-43.The political and economic upheavals during the past two decades have led to a new social and political organization of space on all levels of scale. To deal with the obvious changes, political geography had to rethink and to extend its traditional concepts. Transcending its long taken-for-granted radical approaches, the Anglo-American geography developed two conceptional paths, both of which are still relevant for political geography today: a new awareness of regional differences in political action and culture a new, constructionist awareness of the instrumentalization of geographical discourses for geopolitical purposes. With these theoretical concepts, political geography is examining a number of both traditional and new fields of research. Their heterogeneity is once again evidence of postmodern diversity and difference. They are characterized by both a new awareness of differentiation and a widening of the traditional viewpoint in three closely related respects transcending the traditional topics of political activity, the traditional political actors and the established levels of scale of politics. Based on the current literature it is possible to outline some major themes and perspectives of current political geography that are closely linked together, like knots in thematic networks: 1. ecological politics and resource conflicts 2. territorial conflicts and boundaries 3. geopolitics and the politics of identity 4. globalization and new international relations 5. the symbolic representation of political power 6. regional conflicts and new social movements.


Shapiro M, 2008. Cinematic Geopolitics. London: Routledge.

Sharp J, 2000. Condensing the Cold War: Reader’s Digest and American Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Sidaway J D, 2009. Shadows on the path: Negotiating geopolitics on an urban section of Britain’s South West Coast path.Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 27(6): 1091-1116.The challenge of producing geographical narrative has recently been enhanced through work under the banners of affect and nonrepresentational theory. This has been registered in a range of topics in cultural, social, and political geography, and impacted in work on landscape. Such work has antecedents in several decades of humanistic geography and is immersed in more recent writings on performance and subjectivity and the critical rethinking of being, dwelling, movement, and place. With those and allied works in mind, this paper interrogates such literatures through writing about walking an urban section (through the port of Plymouth) of Britain South West Coast Path; one of the few places where any of the twenty demarcated national trails and long-distance routes in the UK intersects a city. The existence of a rich literature on strolling in urban space opens up possibilities and connections. However the approach here is deliberately eclectic and also draws on works from/about geopolitics, natural history, and urban studies. My purpose here is to bring such literatures into closer and productive dialogue, through an account that shifts geographical and temporal scales and perspectives. This is done through the device of an evening walk along a section of the path: negotiating spaces of capital and sovereignty. Military geography and security/insecurity emerge as master keys to how topography has been shaped here and the paper draws a series of connections between landscape, life, death, and military activities, both near and far. What the paper aims to do, therefore, is to illustrate how geopolitics affects us o illustrate how the repercussions of militarism, war, and death are folded into the textures of an everyday urban fabric. This has implications for how other landscapes, places, and paths might be understood.


Spykman N J, 1965. The Geography of the Peace. Beijing: The Commercial Press. (in Chinese)

Stavrianos L S, 2005. The Global History: From Prehistoric to 21st Century. Beijing: Peking University Press.

Sun Xiangdong, 2006. Geopolitics: The perspective of postmodernism criticizes.Journal of University of International Relations, (1): 44-49. (in Chinese)

Wang Enyong, Wang Zhengyi, Lou Yaoliang et al., 2003. Geopolitics. Beijing: Higher Education Press. (in Chinese)

Wang Guoliang, 2003. The security environment around China and relative geopolitical strategies.World Regional Studies, 12(2): 100-105. (in Chinese)The national territory of China is very big. Both the sea and land boundaries are quite long and adjacent with many countries. This geographic characteristic provides enough geopolitical strategic space for the safety of China either in depth or on broad. On the other hand, it also adds a lot of complicated factors and difficulties to China's safety. In this paper, the boundary around China is divided into three parts from the angle of geopolitical point of view:North to Northwest part,West to South part and Southeast part. According to analysis of the evolution of these three geopolitical lines,this paper thinks that the overall trendy of the lines of Northwest and Southwest will be safe and relatively stable in some time from now on. While along the Southeast line there are many problems and the situation is severe and obscure. It is just the topical geopolitical line that affects China's safety. On this basis, this paper puts forward the geopolitical strategies of China's safety for the beginning of the 21th century: eg. depending on the North , stabilizing the West and defending the Southeast.

Wang Yiwei, Tang Xiaosong, 2003. The tragedy of great power politics and the tragedy of international theory.Academics in China, (6): 259-268. (in Chinese)Presents a parable to show the problems of the oceans today. It demonstrates that the cumulative effect of the world's dumping and fishing in the same ocean is very damaging.


Watts M, 1997. Black gold, white heat: State violence, local resistance and the national question in Nigeria. In: Pile S, Keith M (ed.). Geographies of Resistance. New York: Routledge.

Wood W B, Potts L L, 1996. The UN and migration: Falling behind.Political Geography, 15(3): 251-260.Subnational and international migration flows are becoming a growing problem for the United Nations and its member states. Four categories of migration—forced, voluntary, subnational and international—are used here as a framework for discussing the UN's half-century of efforts, manifested in the creation of specialized agencies, Security Council resolutions and international conferences. The paper concludes with a discussion of how current and future migration flows will be likely to affect and be affected by UN actions.


Ye Jiang, Yin Xiang, 2008. Comparative analysis on the conception of power in realism and neo-liberal institutionalism.International Politics Quarterly, (1): 131-142. (in Chinese)

Zhang Jianhua, 2014. History of Russia. Beijing: People’s Publishing House. (in Chinese)No abstract is available for this article.


Zhang Wenmu, 2007. The grow and decline of the relative geopolitical strength of Europe and America and enlightenment for the rise of China.World Economics and Politics, (7): 45-56. (in Chinese)The growth and decline of the relative geopolitical strength of Europe and America in history sheds light on five rules that provide enlightenment for the rise of China. First, a nation’s rise and strength is important to safeguard the independence and unity of the main continental regional geopolitical bloc; second, it is important for great power global governance to adjust strategic alliances to a nation’s actual interests and to achieve strategic acknowledgment and consent of the major powers instead of maintaining permanent alliances; third, it is imperative not to enter into hostilities with the two major strategic powers, and furthermore not to launch an attack in all directions; fourth, the limits to a nation’s expansion depend on the counteracting strength of other nations, which depends on the number and the geographical positions of the counteracting countries; fifth, national interest and power diplomacy are the basic language and common sense of negotiations with the West.

Zhang Yaoguang, 1996. Coastal areas and territorial seas and marine geopolitics strategies of China.Human Geography, 11(2): 43-46. (in Chinese)根据中国领海与毗连区制度以及联合国海洋法公约,我国的领海及海洋国土的面积为300万km2。鸦片战争历史上不平等条约的签订,我国海疆与海权的丧失。文中还提出了90年代及21世纪我国海洋地缘政治战略。