Risks & Trends

4 | Why China Abandoned Its Grand Strategy

Foreign Policy

Sulmaan Wasif Khan | The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomcy, Tufts University and the author of Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping
4 | Why China Abandoned Its Grand Strategy
4 | Why China Abandoned Its Grand Strategy
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China's Grand Strategy

4

June 3, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘The most persuasive explanation is that China has poisoned itself through its own rhetoric.’

‘One hypothesis for China’s abandonment of grand strategy is that it is out to dominate the world, sees an America in decline, and figures that this is a good opportunity to amass more power.’

  • ‘But its behavior doesn’t seem geared toward exploiting U.S. decline; if anything, China has squandered all the advantages it could have won in 2020 as the United States went through utter chaos.’

‘Another suggestion is that China now feels it can get away with belligerence because it is stronger.’

  • ‘This might be part of the explanation, but it does raise the question of why it would want to fritter away strength on folly.’

‘The most persuasive explanation is that China has poisoned itself through its own rhetoric.’

  • ‘In the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, nationalism was seen as a way to get citizens on the same page as the party.’
  • ‘It was not really meant to inform practical foreign policy.’
  • ‘But as the United States discovered in the Donald Trump years, one cannot stoke nationalistic fires without their eventually blazing beyond control.’

‘Over the years, rhetoric about how Taiwanese needed to be made grateful, about the protests in Hong Kong being a product of Western influence, about Western aggression, about Japan never apologizing for World War II, about the righteousness of the party and the infallibility of the Chinese government and the hurt feelings of the Chinese people—all this seeped in and took hold.’

  • ‘And it made grand strategy hard to keep alive.’

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