China Analysis: China debates its global strategy

The debate over whether Beijing’s leaders have become too bold


Has China become too bold in its dealings with the rest of the world? Some of the country’s own foreign policy experts fear that as Beijing’s power on the global stage rises, its leaders are forgetting Deng Xiaoping’s famous mantra: “hide one’s abilities, and bide one’s time.”

A special edition of China Analysis, published today by the European Council on Foreign Affairs and Asia Centre, offers a fascinating insight into the thinking of some of China’s top foreign policy strategists, by examining the debates they are having between themselves.

Key themes that emerge include:

  • Alarm about a trend towards triumphalism and confrontational behaviour in dealing with both the USA and Asian states over the past year, and the belief in some quarters that “2010 was unequivocally a year of losses for China,” during which its relationships with everyone – except the Europeans and North Korea – deteriorated 
  • Concern that Chinese insensitivity might encourage other countries to form balancing coalitions against China – noting, for example, astute US exploitation of Beijing’s recent disputes with neighbours, for example over the South China Sea
  • A sense that Chinese foreign policy has become internally divisive because nobody, including the foreign ministry, is driving it
  • An unprecedented degree of confidence in the inevitability of China’s rise, despite its foreign policy problems; a feeling that China’s future on the world stage will be determined by its own choices, rather than by anyone else

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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