To the extent that any nation has a grand strategy, China surely does. The vision is no secret: Xi Jinping vows to make China great again. This resonates deeply: Since imperial decline in the First Opium War (1839 to 1842), every Chinese leader has sought the same, with broad popular support. Xi’s strategy for a modern China of unprecedented power and influence requires recapturing lost glories at home and abroad. It clearly entails reincorporating Taiwan, together with other unresolved island and maritime claims. China’s history and geography suggest that it now faces short-range opportunities and long-range challenges. China’s strategy thus has a broadly-defined arc that the United States should address with a strategy of “competitive coexistence” to safeguard American interests sustainably amid increasing Chinese assertiveness.
In the field of international relations, a nation’s credibility is often thought to be calculated by evaluating its historical record of following through on threats of punishment issued to adversaries. In contrast, today, the larger challenge to U.S. global credibility arises not from questions about its ability to inflict pain on rivals, but rather from the demonstrated failure of U.S. policymakers to make good on incentives promised to rivals in exchange for constructive changes in their behaviors.
Since 2013 China has clearly called for the creation of a new security architecture in Asia. The May 2015 white paper on China’s military strategy explicitly advocates promoting ‘the establishment of a regional framework for security and cooperation’. This call was reaffirmed in October 2016 and detailed further in China’s white paper, published in January 2017, on security cooperation in Asia-Pacific. Since then, Chinese officials have repeatedly declared, one way or another, that the region needs to be restructured. On 16 February 2019, at the 55th Munich Security Conference, Politburo member Yang Jiechi declared that ‘China supports security dialogue among the Asia-Pacific countries and efforts to explore a regional security vision and architecture that fits the reality of this region’. 2
Following five years of periodic controversies and criticism – some factual, others contrived – President Xi Jinping used the Belt and Road (BRI) Forum in April to set the agenda for the next five years of his hallmark project. At the forum’s second edition, meant to promote a “stronger partnership network,” the Chinese leader pledged to “clean up,” stressed “zero tolerance” to corruption, and emphasized readiness to adopt “internationally acceptable” standards in the bidding process of BRI projects in the future. This language indicates Beijing’s openness to constructive criticism and willingness to objectively tweak some inherent weaknesses in the strategy and implementation mechanisms for the BRI during the 2013-2018 period. It also sets the stage for the start of “BRI 2.0,” where the stress is likely to be on the qualitative, rather than just quantitative, attributes. The following are some analytical pointers on how BRI 2.0 is likely to be different from version 1.0, especially keeping in mind what Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi referred to as a “high-quality” shift from “big freehand” to “fine brushwork” in planning BRI’s future projects.
As the People’s Republic of China transforms itself into a technological and military superpower, while maintaining a party-state system, there is increasing debate at the heart of the EU about the terms on which relations with the country should be pursued. Pressure has been exerted on the debate by the EU’s main ally, the US, whose strategic rivalry with China is growing daily.