China's Search for Security

China's Search for Security

Andrew J. Nathan
Andrew Scobell
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    China's Search for Security
    Book Description:

    Despite its impressive size and population, economic vitality, and drive to upgrade its military, China remains a vulnerable nation surrounded by powerful rivals and potential foes. Understanding China's foreign policy means fully appreciating these geostrategic challenges, which persist even as the country gains increasing influence over its neighbors. Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell analyze China's security concerns on four fronts: at home, with its immediate neighbors, in surrounding regional systems, and in the world beyond Asia. By illuminating the issues driving Chinese policy, they offer a new perspective on the country's rise and a strategy for balancing Chinese and American interests in Asia.

    Though rooted in the present, Nathan and Scobell's study makes ample use of the past, reaching back into history to illuminate the people and institutions shaping Chinese strategy today. They also examine Chinese views of the United States; explain why China is so concerned about Japan; and uncover China's interests in such problematic countries as North Korea, Iran, and the Sudan. The authors probe recent troubles in Tibet and Xinjiang and explore their links to forces beyond China's borders. They consider the tactics deployed by mainland China and Taiwan, as Taiwan seeks to maintain autonomy in the face of Chinese advances toward unification. They evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of China's three main power resources -- economic power, military power, and soft power.

    The authors conclude with recommendations for the United States as it seeks to manage China's rise. Chinese policymakers understand that their nation's prosperity, stability, and security depend on cooperation with the United States. If handled wisely, the authors believe, relations between the two countries can produce mutually beneficial outcomes for both Asia and the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51164-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxiii)

    China’s Search for Security grew out of a previous work called The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress, which was published in 1997.¹ We set out to produce a revised and updated edition of that book, but China’s position in the world has changed so much that we ended up with what is almost entirely a new book. The analytical approach remains the same: we look at China’s security problems from the Chinese point of view in order to analyze how Chinese policymakers have tried to solve them. The basic conclusion also stands: China is too bogged down in the...

  5. [Map]
    (pp. xxiv-xxvi)
      (pp. 3-36)

      Vulnerability to threats is the main driver of China’s foreign policy. The world as seen from Beijing is a terrain of hazards, stretching from the streets outside the policymaker’s window to land borders and sea lanes thousands of miles to the north, east, south, and west and beyond to the mines and oilfields of distant continents.

      These threats can be described in four concentric circles. In the First Ring—across the entire territory China administers or claims—the Chinese government believes that domestic political stability is placed at risk by the impact of foreign actors and forces. The migrant workers...

      (pp. 37-62)

      A country’s search for security is shaped by the vision, skills, and information embedded in its leadership and policymaking institutions. In the case of the PRC, the institution that has shaped foreign policy most decisively has no formal existence: the post of supreme leader. So far this position has been occupied by only four men: Mao Zedong (ruled 1949–1976), Deng Xiaoping (the dominant leader 1978–1992), Jiang Zemin (in office 1989–2002), and Hu Jintao (term of office 2002–2012). A fifth leader, Xi Jinping, has been selected to succeed Hu Jintao in 2012 for what is anticipated to...

    • 3 LIFE ON THE HINGE: China’s Russia Policy During the Cold War and After
      (pp. 65-88)

      China’s foreign policy during the Cold War (conventionally dated 1946–1991) shifted dramatically more or less every decade. Upon coming to power, the new government’s chairman, Mao Zedong, announced his decision to “lean to one side,” allying China with the Soviet Union and isolating it from the West. Eleven years later, in 1960, however, Mao split with the Soviet Union, positioning China between the two superpowers as dual enemies. In 1972, by inviting Richard Nixon to China, he activated what came to be called the “strategic triangle,” in which China was the swing player between the two superpowers. After another...

      (pp. 89-113)

      Throughout the Cold War, there was a robust American threat to China that derived from Washington’s Cold War strategy to weaken the Soviet bloc. The U.S. had decided at the end of the Chinese civil war that it did not care about China for itself; instead, Washington shaped a policy toward Beijing based on its status as an ally of Moscow and strove to split the two apart. Once the split came about, the U.S. moved to capitalize on it, using relations with China to put pressure on the Soviet Union.

      For China as well, the U.S. was a secondary...

    • 5 THE NORTHEAST ASIA REGIONAL SYSTEM: Japan and the Two Koreas
      (pp. 114-138)

      If the Soviet Union and the U.S. have served as the PRC’s chief security threats throughout its history, the third greatest threat has consistently come from Japan. Japan is by many measures a more powerful country than any of China’s other immediate neighbors. Its population, at 130 million, ranks tenth in the world. Its GDP was the second largest after that of the U.S. until 2010 and still stands third in the world after China’s. Moreover, China’s GDP has overtaken Japan’s not because of superior productivity but because of its larger population. Japan continues to outpace China as an innovator,...

    • 6 CHINA’S OTHER NEIGHBORS: The Asia-Pacific
      (pp. 139-169)

      The challenges to China around its periphery do not end in Northeast Asia. That region—from northern Japan to southern Taiwan—runs past only one-seventh of China’s circumference. Five more regional systems complete the circuit. Because these other regional systems are farther from the Chinese heartland than the Northeast Asian system, they pose less fundamental threats to Chinese security. Yet each neighboring system is important in its own way for China’s territorial integrity, prosperity, and regime survival.

      Continuing south and west from Taiwan is the region of maritime Southeast Asia, consisting of six countries that surround the South China Sea...

      (pp. 170-192)

      As the world’s second-largest economy and the major regional power in Asia, China has taken a place at the center of world politics. It is a global actor, with a voice on every world issue. But China is not yet what the Soviet Union once was and the United States is today, a true global power—that is, a country with comprehensive strategic interests and influence in every corner of the world. In Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Canada, China’s interests and influence are limited to two spheres, economic and diplomatic.

      We have labeled these widely disparate...

    • 8 PROBLEMS OF STATENESS: Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan
      (pp. 195-221)

      Even as China’s global influence increases, it is bedeviled to an unusual degree for a major power by what political scientists call “problems of stateness.” In Tibet and Xinjiang—vast inland territories in the west and northwest that account for almost one-third of the PRC’s area—non-Han ethnic groups have long resisted Beijing’s control. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, smaller but strategic territories off the southern coast, the residents belong to the Han ethnic group but have separate political systems and in Taiwan’s case, for many residents, a separate national identity. In contrast to the other security problems in the...

      (pp. 222-240)

      Chiang Ching-kuo’s decision to launch a transition to democracy in Taiwan changed the game for Beijing as well as for the self-appointed guarantor of “peaceful resolution” of the Taiwan issue, the U.S. Now that the democratic electorate in Taiwan had a voice in determining its own future, Beijing and Washington had to figure out what the Taiwan voters wanted and how to influence them. China did not change its goal, to exercise sovereignty over Taiwan, or the four prongs of its strategy—the offer of special autonomy within the PRC, diplomatic isolation, economic integration, and military threat. But a success...

    • 10 DILEMMAS OF OPENING: Power and Vulnerability in the Global Economy
      (pp. 243-277)

      The amazing “rise of China” starting in the late 1970s was above all an economic phenomenon, which saw the country’s GDP shoot up at an average annual rate of 9.6 percent starting in 1978 to reach $6 trillion in 2010. Without this surge in economic power, China would not have had the resources to make itself into a modern military power starting in the 1990s, a subject we discuss in chapter 11. Nor would it have enjoyed the prestige to begin exercising soft power in the ways that we describe in chapter 12. And of course, trade, aid, and investment...

    • 11 MILITARY MODERNIZATION: From People’s War to Power Projection
      (pp. 278-317)

      Before Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1970s, the PLA—as all the branches of China’s military are collectively called—was a huge force of 4 million officers and troops, whose fighting experience was limited to land warfare within and in close proximity to China’s borders. Its leadership consisted of aging revolutionaries, many of whose fighting credentials dated back to the 1940s or earlier. Its soldiers were drawn mainly from the rural countryside. Many were illiterate. The forces used antiquated weaponry, primitive logistics, and rudimentary communications. The air and naval components were small and backward. The most modern...

      (pp. 318-342)

      China’s growing economic and military clout and its skillful rollout of a reassurance strategy in the surrounding regions brought Beijing a surge of “soft power”—that is, the ability to exert influence beyond what a country wields through the use of force and money because of the appeal of its cultural values, its ideas, and the perceived success of its way of doing things.¹ Soft power is a valuable resource in foreign policy because it helps a country gain cooperation from other actors in the international system at low cost. Others may even follow its lead without being asked.


      (pp. 345-360)

      China’s arrival as a great power is no longer a possibility, but a reality. Thanks to the sustained growth of its economy, China has narrowed the gap in military strength with the U.S. and Japan, made initial investments in projecting soft power, and moved into the Fourth Ring as a major economic and diplomatic actor. It has, as The Great Wall and the Empty Fortress predicted, “join[ed] the international regimes that govern trade, human rights, weapons proliferation, and other interactions as much in order to change them as to obey them.”¹

      At the same time, China continues to face serious...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 361-390)
    (pp. 391-392)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 393-406)