China: Peaceful Kingdom or Awakening Dragon?
Fou (the most ancient Chinese percussion instrument) performers produce the sound of rolling spring thunder at the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing (Photo: DoD)  



Brigadier Subrata Saha
Indian Army
USAWC International Fellow 2010

The views expressed in the document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army War College, the U.S. Department of the Army, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.



Analysts and policy makers articulate growing concerns on whether China's rapid rise will remain peaceful or become confrontational. To understand Chinese grand strategy, this USAWC International Officer author draws on its long history and classical thinkers to offer four main arguments.

First, China is highly sensitive to its periphery (that is expanding), where it demands preeminence. Second, the measure of internal stability within China has major bearing on its strategic conduct. Third, traditional Chinese caution for strategic overreach is changing, as it projects interests in distant continents, albeit, with greater emphasis on diplomacy and trade. Fourth, reclaiming the status of a great power by rectifying the failings of initial encounters with the West is a dominant motive, in China's changing strategic calculus from national interest to international influence.

In keeping with the growing influence, the Chinese leadership has proposed an alternative paradigm for international order called 'harmonious world', based on the Confucian principle of guanxi of multiple layers of relationships. Past conduct however portends fault-lines in harmony in the periphery, where cracks in China's internal security overlap with competing spheres of influence, raising the specter of confrontation involving potential allies of the United States.

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