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Dr Zeno Leoni

Dr Zeno Leoni

  • Academics
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  • Affiliates

Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department

Affiliate of the Lau China Institute.

Research subject areas

  • Security

Contact details


Dr Zeno Leoni is a Lecturer in ‘Challenges to the International Order' at the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London, based within the Joint Services and Staff College (JSCSC) of the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. He is also an affiliate to the Lau China Institute of King's College London, where he is co-convenor of the same institute’s policy brief series named China in the World.

In the year 2020/2021 he was a Visiting Scholar in Defence and Security Studies at Nebrija University.

In 2021 he published a monograph titled American Grand Strategy from Obama to Trump: Imperialism After Bush and China's Hegemonic Challenge (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan). In the same year he is going to publish a chapter on US-China competition in the MENA region as part of the Routledge Handbook on China in the Middle East and North Africa (2021).

Dr Leoni works to engage policy-makers in Italy and the UK, including in 2020 where he worked within the Italian Joint Chiefs of Defence Staff to write Italy’s first civil-military-produced Future Trends Concept 2040+ document, analysing geopolitical, technological, environmental, and economic trends. In the UK he recently supported the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) during a Study Day on China.

At the Joint Services and Staff College he teaches courses on China for the Higher Command and Staff Course (HCSC), whose members come from Five Eyes (FVEY) countries and have the rank of General or equivalent. Meanwhile, every year in Rome he delivers a guest lecture at the Italian Defence Higher Studies Institute (IASD), Italy’s premier defence education institution.

His analyses appeared on Italian, British, and Slovenian media and magazines such as Corriere della Sera, Rai Radio 1, Limes, The Times, and Radio Študent.

Zeno is the Executive Director of ITSS Verona (International Team for the Study of Security Verona), a not-for-profit cultural association committed to spreading knowledge in the broadly conceived field of International Security. 

Research Interests

  • Imperialism, Empires, Geopolitics
  • Crisis of the Liberal International Order
  • US-China & UK-China relations
  • US grand strategy
  • China’s grand strategy

In general, Zeno's research focuses on world order and hegemonic shifts, with a special interest in the hegemonic competition between US and China.

From a theoretical viewpoint, Zeno is interested in the relationship between the uneven geographical development of capitalism and the rise and fall of great powers. In his PhD thesis, he has sought to bridge Marxist theories of imperialism (intended as inter-state rivalries) and mainstream theories of International Relations (especially geopolitics).

From a conceptual and empirical viewpoint, Zeno is interested in the structural limits of the Liberal International Order, such as the intersection of economic and security interests. In particular, he explores this tension in US-China relations and UK-China relations.

Dr Leoni is part of the Nebrija University's Research Group on Security, Risks Management and Conflict and the International Team for the Study of Security - Verona (ITSS Verona).



  • Rising China (Higher Command and Staff Course)
  • International Security Studies (Advanced Command and Staff Course)
  • Airpower (Intermediate Offer Development, Royal Air Force)
  • International Political Economy (online)

Dr Leoni is currently available to act as second supervisor. He would be happy to chat to prospective applicants whose research proposals align with the research interests above.



  • American Grand Strategy from Obama to Trump: Imperialism after Bush and China’s Hegemonic Challenge (forthcoming, Palgrave).

Book chapters:

  • 'US-China competition in the MENA region', in Handbook of China relations with the Middle East (forthcoming, Routledge)

Policy papers:

  • Future Trends (Joint Chief of Staff, Italian Ministry of Defence)

Media Articles

  • Which world power has the strongest military? The Times & The Sunday Times, Jun 12, 2020
  • The end of the 'Golden Era'? What COVID-19 means for UK-China relations, King's College London, June 4, 2020.