Interpreting China's Grand Strategy

Interpreting China's Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future

Michael D. Swaine
Ashley J. Tellis
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mr1121af
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  • Book Info
    Interpreting China's Grand Strategy
    Book Description:

    China's continuing rapid economic growth and expanding involvement in global affairs pose major implications for the power structure of the international system. To more accurately and fully assess the significance of China's emergence for the United States and the global community, it is necessary to gain a more complete understanding of Chinese security thought and behavior. This study addresses such questions as: What are China's most fundamental national security objectives? How has the Chinese state employed force and diplomacy in the pursuit of these objectives over the centuries? What security strategy does China pursue today and how will it evolve in the future? The study asserts that Chinese history, the behavior of earlier rising powers, and the basic structure and logic of international power relations all suggest that, although a strong China will likely become more assertive globally, this possibility is unlikely to emerge before 2015-2020 at the earliest. To handle this situation, the study argues that the United States should adopt a policy of realistic engagement with China that combines efforts to pursue cooperation whenever possible; to prevent, if necessary, the acquisition by China of capabilities that would threaten America's core national security interests; and to remain prepared to cope with the consequences of a more assertive China.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4830-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Maps
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  6. Table
    (pp. vii-viii)
  7. SUMMARY
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  8. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  9. ACRONYMS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  10. CHRONOLOGY OF CHINESE HISTORY
    (pp. xix-xx)
  11. Chapter One CHINA AS A NATIONAL SECURITY CONCERN
    (pp. 1-8)

    Managing the rise of China constitutes one of the most important challenges facing the United States in the early 21st century. China has always been one of the most important states in the international system, primarily because of its large territory, vast resources, and large population. Although a relatively weak power throughout the modern era, China’s significance for international politics has been dramatically increasing since 1978, when the market reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping placed it on a course of action that could lead to a rapid transformation of its latent potential into actual power, both within Asia and in...

  12. Chapter Two CHINA’S SECURITY PROBLEM
    (pp. 9-20)

    China’s security strategy is heavily conditioned by four fundamental features of its security environment.

    A long and in many places geographically vulnerable border,

    The presence of many potential threats, both nearby and distant,

    A domestic political system marked by high levels of elite internecine conflict at the apex and weak institutions or processes for mediating and resolving such conflict, and

    A great power self-image.

    Even though the total geographic expanse of the areas under the control of the unified Chinese state has repeatedly expanded and contracted throughout China’s long history (as discussed in detail in the next chapter), its territorial...

  13. Chapter Three THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
    (pp. 21-96)

    Chinese security behavior since the emergence and maturation of the unified Chinese state well over 1,000 years ago has contained five core features, each significant to both current and future security policy:

    Efforts to protect the Chinese heartland through border defense and control over a large and long-standing strategic periphery whose outer geographic limits remained relatively constant over time.

    Periodic expansion and contraction of periphery control and regime boundaries, primarily as a result of fluctuations in state capacity; the eventual reemergence of a unified state, often despite long periods of fragmentation and civil war.

    The frequent yet limited use of...

  14. Chapter Four CHINA’S CURRENT SECURITY STRATEGY: FEATURES AND IMPLICATIONS
    (pp. 97-150)

    The five basic features of Chinese security strategy and behavior presented in the previous chapter have persisted to the present day. However, contact with industrialized nation-states, the collapse of the traditional Confucian-Legalist order, and the emergence of Chinese nationalism have brought about several major changes in the specific definition of China’s security objectives and concerns (i.e.,what is understood by domestic order and well-being, threats to Chinese territory, and Chinese geopolitical preeminence) and hence the specific means by which such objectives or concerns could be addressed in the modern era. These changes generally brought about a hybrid “weak-strong” state security strategy...

  15. Chapter Five CHINA FACES THE FUTURE: THE FAR TERM
    (pp. 151-230)

    The challenges facing China’s calculative strategy, even in the near term, should not be underestimated. As indicated in the previous chapter, a variety of external and internal factors could coalesce to undermine both China’s efforts at pragmatism and its desire to economize on the use of force. This could result in serious crises in a variety of issue-areas—such as Taiwan, the Spratlys, Tibet, Korea, WMD proliferation, and trade—which could compel Beijing to adopt more muscular policies toward both the United States and its regional neighbors. Assuming for the moment, however, that no catastrophic revisions of the calculative strategy...

  16. Chapter Six CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 231-242)

    The expectation that China eventually would pursue an assertive grand strategic policy—in the aftermath of successfully attaining comprehensive national strength—will not be surprising to most students of international politics, since such behavior would be fairly consistent with the conduct of previous great powers historically.

    Assertive policies in the case of China may be more likely for two other reasons. First, the unique and long-standing Chinese experience of geopolitical primacy and the association of that primacy with good order, civilization, virtue, and justice, may make the pursuit of geopolitical centrality through assertive behavior once again attractive, even in the...

  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 243-272)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 273-284)