The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy

The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 268
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy
    Book Description:

    As the rest of the world worries about what a future might look like under Chinese supremacy, Luttwak worries about China’s own future prospects. Applying the logic of strategy for which he is well known, he argues that the world’s second largest economy may be headed for a fall unless China’s leaders check their military ambitions.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06793-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The Fallacy of Unresisted Aggrandizement
    (pp. 1-7)

    It is now widely believed that the future of the world will be shaped by the rise of China, that is, by the continuation of its phenomenally rapid economic growth—even if less rapid eventually—and what comes naturally with such an immense growth in economic capacity, from ever-increasing influence in regional and world affairs, to the further strengthening of China’s armed forces.

    These expectations are certainly consistent with China’s economic performance since the death of Mao in September 1976. Its economy started to grow rapidly in the 1980s, recessions since then have been neither long nor severe, and there...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Premature Assertiveness
    (pp. 8-12)

    As it happens, China’s recent conduct has been far from affable with a number of countries, and with some it has even been threatening in some degree. In a process disregarded at the time but quite evident in retrospect, the 2008 financial crisis, the seeming downfall of the “Washington consensus” and the seeming vindication of the “Beijing consensus” greatly emboldened the Chinese ruling elite, inducing a veritable behavioral shift that became manifest in 2009–2010. There was a sudden change in the tone and content of Chinese declarations, which became sharply assertive on many different issues, from monetary policy to...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Great-State Autism Defined
    (pp. 13-23)

    In all great states there is so much internal activity that leaders and opinion-makers cannot focus seriously on foreign affairs as well, except in particular times of crisis. They do not have the constant situational awareness of the world around them that is natural in small countries of equal advancement. After all, individual sensory and cranial capacities are much the same in smoothly operating states of a few million people, and in mega-states such as the Russian Federation, the United States, India, and China, whose leaders face internal urgencies if not emergencies each day somewhere or other, in addition to...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Historical Residues in Chinese Conduct
    (pp. 24-37)

    It is unnecessary to examine in any depth another and far more complex cause of China’s great-state autism: its idiosyncratic history as a solitary great presence bordering only on sparsely populated high-altitude plateaus, deserts, semi-deserts, frigid steppes, and tropical jungles. Powerful and at times overwhelming threats could and did emerge, from the steppes especially, but none of the bordering areas contained even remotely comparable states with which the Chinese could habitually interact, thereby acquiring the skills and habits of inter-state relations, as the states of Europe did, starting in the consanguineous and often adjacent states of Italy.

    As they dealt...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Coming Geo-Economic Resistance to the Rise of China
    (pp. 38-47)

    The post-2008 outbursts of provocative behavior certainly accelerated reactions to the rise of China. But those reactions had not been caused by the provocations, and could not be ended by conciliatory gestures, fence-mending state visits, or soothing language, because they reflect perceptions of power rather than assessments of Chinese conduct.

    The weights of those perceptions and those assessments are very different.

    First, power is the reality that will not go away, as opposed to the variable of conduct.

    Second, conduct is assessed in retrospect whereas perceptions of power look forward to the future. Moreover, as opposed to future money whose...

  9. CHAPTER SIX China’s Aggrandizement and Global Reactions
    (pp. 48-55)

    The Chinese authorities undoubtedly understand the implications of the nuclear inhibition but evidently—and reasonably—still believe that they can benefit from increasing their military capabilities, not only for the sake of military prestige but also to intimidate or even attack defiant non-nuclear powers unprotected by any ironclad security treaty, such as Vietnam.

    Another rational purpose for China’s military aggrandizement is to achieve at least localized escalation dominance even against nuclear powers such as India, the United States, and conceivably the Russian Federation—at least in circumscribed confrontations short of any significant use of lethal force. There have already been...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN The Inevitable Analogy
    (pp. 56-67)

    Historical analogies are notoriously false friends and poor teachers—the only true lesson of history is that humans never seem to learn from their history. But perhaps analogies are not always entirely useless.

    Now that China has overtaken Japan in gross economic terms and is bent on overtaking the United States in like manner, it is worth recalling that by 1890 Germany had overtaken Britain in industrial innovation, thereby winning global markets, accumulating capital, and funding more innovation to overtake British primacy in one sector after another. In the then-still-fundamental steel industry, the German technological advantage was increasing; in the...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Could China Adopt a Successful Grand Strategy?
    (pp. 68-71)

    Each historical period and each state is different, invalidating most analogies. But the paradoxical logic of strategy is always the same.¹ China’s rising power necessarily evokes increasing resistance, so that it may well become weaker at the level of grand strategy because of its own rising military strength—a paradoxical outcome rather common in the realm of strategy. A mild and yielding diplomacy, free of arrogance and ready to make concessions at every turn, could be a palliative for a while. But if military growth continues, such a remissive foreign policy would be interpreted in a sinister light as deliberately...

  12. CHAPTER NINE The Strategic Unwisdom of the Ancients
    (pp. 72-88)

    Thus we reach a specifically Chinese and most peculiar obstacle to the formulation of a successful grand strategy: a stubborn faith in the superior strategic wisdom to be found in ancient texts, and the resulting belief that China will always be able to outmaneuver its adversaries with clever expedients, circumventing the accumulating resistance caused by its rise.

    Remarkably undiminished by the actual record of Chinese history, with its repeated subjugations by relatively small numbers of primitive invaders, this great confidence in Chinese strategic abilities reflects the immense prestige of China’s ancient writings on statecraft and the art of war, and...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Strategic Competence: The Historical Record
    (pp. 89-94)

    Many foreigners¹ and not only they themselves are inclined to attribute great strategic competence to the Han Chinese, but the historical record does not sustain this belief. That should not be surprising. Great-state autism, the misapplication of intracultural tactics, tricks, and techniques to intercultural conflicts, the ritualistic conduct of warfare, and the fixed Tianxia 天下 presumption of superiority were all obstacles to the situational awareness of Chinese rulers, their ability to formulate realistic grand strategies and to implement them effectively by diplomatic or military means. Hence, though the Han have long viewed themselves as great strategists, they were regularly defeated...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN The Inevitability of Mounting Resistance
    (pp. 95-99)

    The first conclusion, further confirmed by the contents of two recent, full-scale programmatic documents that officially present China’s military and foreign policies,¹ is that China’s leaders fully intend to persist in pursuing incompatible objectives: very rapid economic growth, and very rapid military growth, and a commensurate increase in global influence.

    It is the logic of strategy itself that dictates the impossibility of concurrent advances in all three spheres: inevitably, China’s military aggrandizement is already evoking countering responses—all the more so because it is so rapid, of course. Those responses in turn are already impeding, and will increasingly impede, China’s...

  15. CHAPTER TWELVE Why Current Policies Will Persist
    (pp. 100-106)

    China’s persistence on its path toward vast troubles, if not ruin, as it exceeds its culminating level of unresisted achievement, is “overdetermined” by a multiplicity of factors:

    Great-state autism, which diminishes situational awareness, a malady shared with the United States and the Russian Federation as well as India, but at least proportionately greater in the Chinese case, and much aggravated by relative inexperience on the international scene. The specific effect is to reduce the ability of the regime as a whole to perceive international realities with clarity, and notably the mounting hostility tracked even by commonly available opinion polls.


  16. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Australia: Weaving a Coalition
    (pp. 107-124)

    All states invariably assert formal claims to absolute sovereignty, but not all states are sustained by political cultures equally refractory to any subordination to foreign powers, a category to which even the British mother country was gradually consigned during the twentieth century. Legal barriers to specific foreign activities may be effective within their remit in any case, as with cabotage prohibitions, but an abundance of legal barriers to foreign activities suggests that the political culture is not so refractory to foreign influence after all, and the same is true of excessively manifest national sensitivities—they are encountered most often in...

  17. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Japan: Disengaging from Disengagement
    (pp. 125-144)

    For a country both praised and blamed for its slow-moving conservatism, Japan’s China policy and its reciprocal U.S. policy have been extraordinarily changeable in recent years.

    In small part because of the wear and tear caused by the U.S. military presence in a crowded country, and especially by Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, virtually in a city center, in much larger part because of a post-2008 assessment that the United States was declining while China was offering rapidly expanding opportunities, without necessarily being less benevolent in the long run, the Japanese elite consensus was beginning to drift toward a closer...

  18. CHAPTER FIFTEEN Defiant Vietnam: The Newest American Ally?
    (pp. 145-168)

    A willing acceptance of subordination to China is not a Vietnamese trait, to say the least, in spite of immediate proximity and an extreme imbalance in overall power. Moreover, the close similarity between the ideology and inner-party practices of the local Communist Party (Ðảng Cộng sản Việt Nam, VCP) and those of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their joint inheritance of Leninist methods, Stalinist techniques, and secret police tricks, only sharpens the resolve of VCP leaders to resist CCP intentions for Vietnam.

    The unambiguous 1975 victory of Communist Vietnam against the United States and its local allies, auxiliaries, and...

  19. CHAPTER SIXTEEN South Korea: A Model Tianxia Subordinate?
    (pp. 169-179)

    As already noted, all independent states invariably assert their absolute sovereignty, but not all states are animated by political cultures equally resistant to subordination to foreign powers—some are just more pliant than others. The usual motivation is fear, but in the case of South Korean attitudes toward China, fear is only a secondary and indirect factor that derives from China’s presumed ability to leash or unleash North Korea. The greater motivation, rather, is a combination of deep cultural respect for China and the Chinese—highlighted by elite (not popular¹) resentment against the United States and Americans—and above all,...

  20. CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Mongolia: Northern Outpost of the Coalition?
    (pp. 180-185)

    Mongolia is Vietnam’s twin and South Korea’s polar opposite when it comes to relations with China, for it could not survive as an independent state within the Chinese orbit, even though China did legally, formally, and finally renounce its claim to all of Mongolia with the 1962 border treaty and 1964 boundary protocol (which added another 10,000 square kilometers to Mongolia’s 1.5 million). Prior to that, by the usual appropriation of ownership that still persists in the case of Tibet, Chinese governments had rejected Mongol declarations of independence (from 1911), claiming that Mongolia was part of “China” because the Manchu...

  21. CHAPTER EIGHTEEN Indonesia: From Ostracism to Coalition
    (pp. 186-196)

    Indonesia’s successive governments have not always been especially stable, broadly representative, or particularly effective, but they have always claimed a distinct regional primacy because of the sheer magnitude of the country’s population and vast geographic extent, which is entirely disproportionate to its land area, very large though it is. In population, at more than 237 million in 2011, Indonesia far exceeds the next ASEAN members, the Philippines with some 94 million and Vietnam with 87 million. In total land area, Indonesia’s 1.9 million square kilometers greatly exceed Vietnam’s 331,000 square kilometers, and only the Malaysian Federation is of similar size....

  22. CHAPTER NINETEEN The Philippines: How to Make Enemies
    (pp. 197-208)

    From a Chinese and strategic point of view, the Republic of the Philippines was little more than an extension of the United States until September 16, 1991, when the Philippine Senate amid great displays of emotion voted 12 votes to 11 to reject a treaty that would have leased the Subic Bay Naval Station to the United States for another ten years.¹ Instead, the last U.S. sailor departed on November 24, 1992, and by then the United States had already evacuated Clark Air Force Base, which had been heavily damaged by a 1991 volcanic explosion.

    Under the 1947 Military Bases...

  23. CHAPTER TWENTY Norway: Norway? Norway!
    (pp. 209-212)

    Although Norway notoriously has vast maritime possessions, exclusive economic zones amounting to 2,385,178 undisputed square kilometers as opposed to China’s 877,019, it faces no Chinese claims as yet. On the other hand, its Nobel Committee did give the 2010 Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese citizen convicted and imprisoned by due process of Chinese law for advocating human rights—a criminal, that is. The Chinese could have retaliated symmetrically by awarding the newly instituted Confucius Prize to a convicted Norwegian criminal, but instead it was reportedly left to Chinese food-safety inspectors to respond by holding up Norwegian salmon imports...

  24. CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE The Three China Policies of the United States
    (pp. 213-247)

    It is customary to criticize the administration in office for “not having a (grand) strategy” and for not having a policy for this or that country. But this accusation certainly cannot be advanced in regard to China policy, because there is not merely one of them, but three—two of which are moving in diametrically opposed directions.

    Yet, as we shall see, the remedy cannot be to reduce three to just one, but rather it must be to add a fourth policy, a geoeconomic policy. It alone can offer the possibility of preserving a long-term power equilibrium with China.


  25. CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO Conclusions and Predictions
    (pp. 248-270)

    The entire argument here presented rests on certain assumed continuities. But if China’s economy stops growing rapidly, there will be no global adversarial reaction to China geoeconomically. And if the CCP abandons the pursuit of military aggrandizement, or if its power wanes, there will be no geopolitical reaction, even if China’s growth remains rapid.

    The first assumption is that China’s economy will continue to grow very rapidly, temporary disruptions aside—that is, at an annual rate of 8 percent or more. That is, very much less than the rate recorded in the last pre-crisis year (2007), but still twice as...

  26. APPENDIX: The Rise and Fall of “Peaceful Rise”
    (pp. 273-276)
  27. Notes
    (pp. 277-300)
  28. Glossary
    (pp. 301-306)
  29. Index
    (pp. 307-310)