Katherine Morton

Professor Katherine Morton

Professor of China's International Relations

B.A (Hons). M.A, (Sussex) Ph.D. (ANU)

Contact details
Email: katherine.morton@sheffield.ac.uk
Tel: 0114 222 8418
Room: C07


Katherine Morton is Chair and Professor of China’s International Relations and Associate Fellow in the Energy, Environment and Resources Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Her research addresses the domestic and international motivations behind China’s changing role in international politics and the implications for foreign policy and the study of International Relations. A particular focus is upon Chinese responses to global challenges such as climate change, food security, or internal conflicts that require new institutional mechanisms, forms of governance, and collective norms to regulate behaviour. In the field of International Relations she has a strong interest in contemporary questions relating to the changing international order, regional security, and transnational governance.

Professor Morton has published widely on global governance, transnational security, environment and climate change, civil society, and regional security. Prior to her appointment at the University of Sheffield she was the Associate Dean for Research at the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University and a Senior Fellow in the Department of International Relations, ANU. She has held visiting fellowships to Columbia University, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Peking University, China Foreign Affairs University, and Senior Associate Memberships to St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She is also a regular participant in Track II security dialogues and policy briefings on the Asia Pacific.

She speaks Mandarin, French, Italian, and basic Japanese and Spanish.


Associated research groups, collaborators and projects

Chatham House - Associate Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources

I am currently completing a book manuscript on the likely impacts of China’s rising international status upon the evolving system of global governance. Other projects involve work on China’s Western Frontier, Maritime security in the East and South China seas, and Climate Change and Transboundary Water Security in the Himalayan-Hindu Kush.

Current research projects include:

  • The relationship between China’s rising international status and the future of global governance.
  • China and maritime security governance
  • Global leadership
  • UK-China relations
  • China’s New Silk Roads

Research Supervision

Mentoring is one of my most enjoyable tasks as an academic and I have a strong commitment towards high quality research supervision, focusing on cutting edge topics relating to China, the East Asia region, and the study of International Relations more generally. I have supervised 15 Ph.D. students and many have taken up positions at prestigious universities and published their theses. Previous topics include The Expansion of European International Society and the Socialisation of China and Japan, The Power of an Idea: China, Responsibility, and Global Governance,’ Contentious Activism and Inter-Korean Relations, and The Irony of the Information Age: US Power and the Internet in International Relations. In 2011 I received a University award for excellence in research supervision from the Australian National University.

I enthusiastically welcome applications from potential PhD students within my area of expertise.


I currently teach on the following modules:

EAS356 War and Peace in East Asia
EAS370 China's Rise: Domestic Transformation, Global Expansion
EAS6209 International Politics in East Asia

At a time when China’s rising influence in the world is under intense scrutiny the study of Chinese history, politics, economy, and society is of immense importance to the future generation of scholars and practitioners. Equally important, is a deeper understanding of the richness and complexity of the East Asian regional experience from a global perspective. Bringing China and East Asia more centrally into the study of International Relations is a challenging task, and often some of the best ideas originate from the classroom. My current modules include: China’s Rise: Domestic Transformation, Global Expansion, International Politics of East Asia, and War and Peace in East Asia.

Policy Engagement

Complementary to my academic research and teaching, I have a strong commitment towards public education and policy engagement. I have been involved in numerous regional policy dialogues, presented policy briefings in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and China, and provided policy advice to numerous government agencies, international organisations, and NGOs.

I have also made regular contributions to the media, appearing in television broadcasts and on the radio.

Latest Publications

'Political Leadership and Global Governance: Structural Power Versus Custodial Leadership', Chinese Political Science Review, Volume 2, Issue 4, December 2017 pp 477–493.

‘The China Factor in Global Governance’ East Asia Forum Quarterly: Economics, Politics, and Public Policy in the Asia Pacific, Vol.9, No.2, April-June 2017.

‘Learning By Doing: The Global Governance of Food Security’ in Scott Kennedy (ed.) The Dragon’s Learning Curve: Global Governance and China, Global Institutions Series, Routledge, 2017.

‘China’s Ambition in the South China Sea: Is a Legitimate Order Possible?International Affairs, vol.92, issue 4, July 2016, pp: 909-940.

China’s Role in the Emerging Global OrderEast Asia Forum, 1st September 2016

Full list of Publications

Books and Research Reports

‘Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival' a research report in collaboration with the Humanitarian Futures Programme at Kings College London, the Natural Hazards Centre at University College London, and Chinadialogue, 2010.

China and the Global Environment: Learning from the Past, Anticipating the Future, Lowy Institute, 2009.

International Aid and China’s Environment: Taming the Yellow Dragon, Routledge Studies on China in Transition, London and New York, Routledge, 2005.

Articles and Working Papers

‘The China Factor in Global Governance’ East Asia Forum Quarterly: Economics, Politics, and Public Policy in the Asia Pacific, Vol.9, No.2, April-June 2017.

‘China’s Ambition in the South China Sea: Is a Legitimate Order Possible?’ International Affairs, vol.92, issue 4, July 2016, pp: 909-940.

‘Learning by Doing: China’s Role in the Global Governance of Food Security’ Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business, Indiana University, Working Paper, 30, September, 2012.

‘Climate Security at the Third Pole,’ Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, vol. 53, no.1, February-March, 2011.

‘China and Environmental Security in the Age of Consequences’ Asia Pacific Review, vol.15, issue 2, November, 2008.

‘Surviving an Environmental Crisis: Can China Adapt?’ The Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol.XIII, issue I, Fall/Winter, 2006.

‘The Emergence of NGOs in China and their Transnational Linkages: Implications for Domestic Reform’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, vol. 59, no.4, December, 2005.

Book Chapters

‘Learning By Doing: The Global Governance of Food Security’ in Scott Kennedy (ed.) The Dragon’s Learning Curve: Global Governance and China, Global Institutions Series, Routledge, 2017.

‘Policy Case Study: the Environment’ in William Joseph (second edition) (ed.) Politics in China: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2014.

With Lance Heath et al ‘Climate and Security in Asia and the Pacific: Food, Water, and Energy’, in Michael Manton and Linda Anne Stevenson (eds) Climate in Asia and the Pacific: Security, Society, and Sustainability, Netherlands: Springer, 2014.

‘China and Global Climate Policy Making: Leadership in a State of Flux’ in Huang Xiaoming and Robert Pateman (eds.) Becoming a World Power: China and the International System, Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2013.

‘Responding to Climate Change in the Region: New Partnerships and Chinese Leadership’ in Jochen Prantl (ed) Effective Multilateralism: Through the Looking Glass of East Asia, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, St Anthony’s Series, 2013.

‘Policy Case Study: the Environment’ in William Joseph (ed.) Politics in China: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2010.

‘Sustainability and Underdevelopment: Complex Tradeoffs on the Tibetan Plateau’ International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability vol.5, issue 4, 2009.

‘Transnational Advocacy at the Grassroots in China: Potential Benefits and Risks’ in Peter Ho and Richard Louis Edmonds (eds), China’s Embedded Activism: Opportunities and Constraints of a Social Movement, Routledge, 2007.

‘Civil Society and Marginalisation: Grassroots NGOs in Qinghai Province’ in Heather Xiaoquan Zhang, Bin Wu, and Richard Sanders (eds) Marginalisation in China: Perspectives on Transition and Globalisation, Ashgate, 2007.

Online publications

‘The China Factor in Global Governance’ East Asia Forum (in progress)

China’s Role in the Emerging Global Order’ East Asia Forum, 1st September 2016

‘Transnational Water Security in Asia: A Leadership Role for Rising Powers?’ China Policy Institute Blog, 2nd October 2014.

‘The Rights and Responsibilities of Disagreement’ The China Story Journal, 21 September 2014.

‘China’s Positive Stance on Global Food Policy’ Special Issue on Energy, Resources, and Food, East Asia Forum Quarterly, vol. 4, no. 4, October-December, 2012.

‘China and the Future of International Norms’ Australian Strategic Policy Institute Forum, 22 June, 2011.

‘China and Non-Traditional Security: Towards What End?’ East Asia Forum, 31 March 2011.

‘An Uncertain Future’, Chinadialogue online (in English and Chinese), April 28 2009.

‘Humanitarianism and Civil-Military Relations in a Post 9/11 World’ co-edited with Jacinta O’Hagan Keynote 10, Department of International Relations, The Australian National University. March, 2009.

Interviews and Media

‘China and the International Legal Order’ Interview for the International Law Programme at Chatham House with Bill Hayton from the BBC and Kerry Brown from King College London 20 March 2017

ABC Future Forum television broadcast on ‘How Will the Asian Century Shape Australia’s Future’ 31 August 2011

ABC Big Ideas, ‘Where is Asia Headed?’ 9 September 2011.

Copenhagen too early for China World Today, ABC, November 2009

Policy Engagement

‘UK and China in Global Governance: A New Partnership in the Making? Inaugural UK-China Track II Dialogue, Fudan University, 6 December 2016.

Participation in Australia-UK track 1.5 Asia Dialogue, Ditchley Park, 23-25 November 2016.

Organiser and participant, Foreign Policy Forum on Security Challenges in Asia, University of Sheffield, 11 November 2016.

Participant in UK-China Bilateral Forum for Reform and Innovation, Chengdu, 4 November 2016.

‘Evolving Trends in China’s Approach to Climate Change and Global Governance’ International Symposium on the Rules for Global Governance, Chatham House and State Council, Beijing, 4 August 2016.

‘China’s Ambition in the South China Sea: Hegemonic Power Versus Maritime Order,’ SOAS China Institute Roundtable Talk, London, 5 April 2016.

Opening Remarks, British Academy Forum on the South China Sea, London, 10 March 2016.

‘Towards a Peaceful Maritime Order in East Asia,’ Presentation at the Nanjing Forum 2015: Roundtable on Asia Pacific Maritime Security Cooperation and Its Future Regional Maritime Security Order, Nanjing, PRC, October 19-21 2015.

‘Safeguarding the Maritime Commons in the South China Sea,’ Presentation at the Nanjing Forum 2015: Roundtable on Maritime Resources and the Environment: Asian Cooperative Responses, Nanjing October 19-21 2015

‘How Ambivalent is China about Global Governance?’ Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, 27 January 2015.

‘China and the Future of Global Governance’ Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, 29 January 2015.

‘How Ambivalent is China about Global Governance?’ Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, 27 January 2015.

Policy Roundtable with Jerome Cohen and Peter Dutton ‘East Asia and the Law of the Sea: Recent Developments’ Council on Foreign Relations, New York, United States, 29 April 2014.

Policy Roundtable with Peter Dutton ‘China’s Maritime Power’ International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, 10 October 2013.

‘Maritime Security and Regional Norms in the South China Sea’ Workshop on Cooperation and Development in the South China Sea, State Oceanic Administration, Beijing 19-20 July 2013.

Recent International Conference Papers

‘International Leadership and Institutions in Global Governance’ International Conference on International Leadership in the New World, Fudan University and the University of Copenhagen Fudan University, Shanghai, June 19-20 2017.

‘Governing Security Risks along the Belt and Road’ International Workshop, China’s Frontier: Institutions, Infrastructure and Landscapes in Pakistan’s CPEC, School for Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, 19 May 2017.

‘Redressing the Imbalance in Maritime Security Governance’ International Symposium on Maritime Silk Road: Challenges and Opportunities for Asia and Europe, University of Central Lancashire UK, and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, PRC, 4-5 May 2017.

‘How Will China Change the Global Order? Hallsworth Conference on China and International Order, Manchester University, 23-24 March 2017.

‘Global Terrorism Across China’s Western Frontier’ paper presented at the International Studies Association Conference in Baltimore, USA, February 2017.

‘China and the Post-War Principled World Order’ China Institute, University of Oxford, Workshop on China and Global Governance, 17 July 2015.

‘China and the Remaking of International Norms’ Fifth World Forum on China Studies, ‘China’s Modernization: Road and Prospects, Shanghai, 23-26 March 2013.

Public Lectures

‘China and Global Governance’ Public Lecture, St Antony’s College, Oxford University, 21 October 2014.

“China and the Future of Global Governance’ Joint Event School of Contemporary Chinese Studies and Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies, School of Politics and International Relations, Nottingham University, 2 October 2014.

‘Who Makes the Rules? China and Global Food Security’ and ‘China’s Maritime Power in the South and East China Seas’ TOChina Summer School, Torino World Affairs Institute, Torino, Italy, 1-2 July 2014.

Public Lecture ‘China’s Maritime Power and Disputes in the East and South China Seas’, Columbia University, United States, 28 April 2014.

Guest Lecture ‘China and the Future of Global Governance’ US Naval War College, Rhode Island, United States, 15 April 2014.

Public Lecture ‘China’s Environmental Challenges’ Torino World Affairs Institute, University of Torino, 19 March 2014.

‘China’s Rise and the Future of Global Governance’ Public Lecture, SOAS, London, 3 March 2014.

‘China and the Making of International Norms’ Guest Lecture, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, 5 February 2014.

‘China’s Maritime Power and the South China Sea’ Public Lecture, St Antony’s College, Oxford University, 15 October 2013.

‘(Moral) Intransigence and (Political) Flexibility: China’s Approach to Maritime Security’ Symposium on ‘Intersections of Power, Politics, and Conflict in Asia’ Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, 18-20 June 2013.