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20200719 – The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy



The main idea of this book is to review consequences, problems, and future outcome of raise of China and its increasingly open claim for world dominance, which author estimates as strategically unsound, albeit practically inevitable. Author believes that it would be met with growing resistance with very adverse consequences for China that could be avoided if Chinese move to democratic form, drop its military ambition,and become normal member of peaceful community of nations.


Here author describes his multiyear interest in China’s development and how it prompted writing this book to discuss strategic issues caused by China’s development and threat it generated for the world.

  1. The Fallacy of Unresisted Aggrandizement

In this chapter author discusses raise of China which is now moving away from peaceful development as equal member of world “community” to militant development aiming at world dominance.  After that author makes point that people often tend to project previous development into the future and strategically it always leads to mistake. The change of China objectives, its militarization, and clear plans on domination inevitably cause former supporters and enablers of China’s rise turn into opponents and disablers it this rise continuation.

2. Premature Assertiveness

In this chapter author reviews signs of China leadership’s attitude change as it was demonstrated in several diplomatic encounters in 2010-11, specifically during visit to India.

3. Great-State Autism Defined

Here author discusses more general phenomenon that he calls “Great-State Autism” when leaders of raising great power tend to ignore others. Here is how author characterizes this: “Instead, decisions on foreign affairs are almost always made on the basis of highly simplified, schematic representations of unmanageably complex realities, which are thereby distorted to fit within internally generated categories, expectations, and perspectives.”. Author then looks at historic example of such behavior by British, Russians, and especially Chinese.

4. Historical Residues in Chinese Conduct  

Here author look at Chinese approach to dealing with powerful adversaries expressed in these rules:

  • Initially, concede all that must be conceded to the superior power, to avoid damage and obtain whatever benefits or at least forbearance that can be had from it.
  • Entangle the ruler and ruling class of the superior power in webs of material dependence6 that reduce its original vitality and strength, while proffering equality in a privileged bipolarity that excludes every other power (“G-2,” at present).
  • Finally, when the formerly superior power has been weakened enough, withdraw all tokens of equality and impose subordination.

The final result is imposing on former adversary “the tributary system, the Tianxia hierarchy”. Author also stresses that China is seeking bilateral relations of benevolent Emperor vs tamed barbarians, rather than participation in multilateral organization of equals. Author also presents Chinese understanding of the future world order based on their vision:” The practical value of the traditional Chinese vision of world order, or tianxia … [is that] … this vision anchors a universal authority in the moral, ritualistic, and aesthetic framework of a secular high culture, while providing social and moral criteria for assessing fair, humanitarian governance and proper social relations. Varied discourses indebted to tianxia have resurfaced in modern China in quest of moral and cultural ways of relating to and articulating an international society. We believe that the Chinese vision may prove productive … in the tension-ridden yet interconnected world.”

5. The Coming Geo-Economic Resistance to the Rise of China

In this chapter author moves to present his vision of the future when Chinese approach and strive to dominate will force other countries to resist its economic advance and impose different rules than once that until now supported China’s economic development. Author believes that these rules could go through continuously increasing economic pressure, all the way until complete embargo similar to USA – Cuba situation. Author then reviewing specific measures that USA and other countries applied to counter Chinese advancement economically.

6. China’s Aggrandizement and Global Reactions

Here author reviews how changes in China behavior impacted attitude to China and different countries, which become increasingly negative. Especially strong negative attitude is expressed everywhere to Chinese rapid military development, perceived as a serious threat.

7. The Inevitable Analogy

In this chapter author first notes that historical analogies are usual invalid because all events are unique, then proceed analyze history of raise of Germany at the end of XIX century and its competition with Britain that ended in WWI and WWII. Author pays special attention to British strategy which achieved formation of united front of British, French, and Russian empires against Germany, even if it had to pay price for this by settling all disputes even if at high cost.

8. Could China Adopt a Successful Grand Strategy?

Author clearly believes that the best strategy for China would be restrict its military development and diplomatic assertiveness and continue economic development, but he also understands that it is not going to happen:

“China’s failure at the level of grand strategy, absent political leadership of superhuman perspicacity and courage, is therefore overdetermined:

• It would be abnormal to adopt a humble foreign policy because China’s all-round power is increasing rapidly;

• it would be abnormal to reduce military expenditures because China’s rapid economic growth allows their rapid increase;

• it would be abnormal for the PLA to overcome universal bureaucratic proclivities to accept its own diminution; and

• it would be abnormal for Chinese public opinion, insofar as it counts, to support the unilateral renunciation of military strength, especially given the humiliating past of military impotence. Indeed, there is strong evidence of public support for more military expenditure, and more ambitious expenditure, notably the acquisition of one or more aircraft carriers.

9. The Strategic Unwisdom of the Ancients

Here author looks at Chinese attitudes and glorification of ancient Chinese strategic literature such as Sun Tzu’s “The Art of war”, which is widely accepted as superbly wise peace of work, which still highly influences Chinese strategic thinking. Here is how author characterizes comparing with Western strategic thought: “The undoubted merit of The Art of War is its presentation of the universal and unchanging paradoxical logic of strategy in a form less cryptic than that of the coeval epigrams of Heraclitus (the unity of opposites, and so forth), and altogether more succinct than the On War of Carl von Clausewitz. To be sure, the latter is altogether superior intellectually because Clausewitz explains his reasoning step by step, starting from first principles in a manner at once systematically philosophical and exhilarating, while The Art of War baldly presents its prescriptions in an oracular manner. On War therefore offers a systematic methodology lacking in The Art of War, but there is no doubt that it too conveys the same (paradoxical) truths, and far more expeditiously.” Author provides quite detailed review of this work and concludes that it is way two much based on Chinese intracultural norms to be universally good guide and demonstrates how it impacts current situation.

10. Strategic Competence: The Historical Record

Here author looks at record and notes that real history demonstrates that all this sophisticated thinking is hardly effective in practice, as it beautifully confirmed by history of Han Chinese, who were conquered by much smaller people on pretty regular bases so much so that they ruled themselves only 1/3 of time over the last millennium.  

11. The Inevitability of Mounting Resistance

In this chapter author reviews reaction to of other countries to Chinese claim for domination and stresses not only inevitability of resistance and its actual rapid development, but also notes that balance of combined powers against China is not beneficial for China’s ability to achieve its goal of dominance.

12. Why Current Policies Will Persist

In this chapter author combines many of ideas to conclude that most probable way of development is that China will persists because of:

Great-state autism, which diminishes situational awareness

Historical residues in China’s external conduct, deriving from the tributary system and the presumption of centrality within the concentric circles of the Tianxia.

Resentment, both popular and CCP elite hostility directed at outside powers, often well concealed but strongly felt and sometimes abruptly expressed

The influence of the PLA and the military-industrial establishment on Chinese policies and conduct.

The multiplicity of other expressions of Chinese power—organizations able and willing to pursue expansionism perhaps for their own purely internal motives, which include state-owned enterprises, as well as integral parts of the state apparatus.

13. Australia: Weaving a Coalition; 14. Japan: Disengaging from Disengagement; 15. Defiant Vietnam: The Newest American Ally? 16. South Korea: A Model Tianxia Subordinate? 17. Mongolia: Northern Outpost of the Coalition? 18. Indonesia: From Ostracism to Coalition; 19. The Philippines: How to Make Enemies. 20. Norway: Norway? Norway!

Here author reviews development in surrounding China countries and demonstrates that they far away from accepting China’s dominance.

21. The Three China Policies of the United States

Here author looks at China’s relation with USA and how it developed from situation hugely beneficial for China to constantly deteriorating one. It was expressed by USA’s three policies:

The First U.S. China Policy: Vigorous Promotion of China’s Economic Growth.

The Second U.S. China Policy: The State Department Confronts China.

The Third U.S. China Policy: The Department of Defense.

22. Conclusions and Predictions

This book was published in 2015 and predictions that author made today in 2020 look pretty valid: “At this time, the rising threat emanates from an authoritarian, increasingly assertive China empowered by very rapid economic growth. The logic of strategy evokes corresponding reactions, which are diplomatic in the main but may still be warlike even in our nuclear era, though they can no longer achieve purposeful aims by actual warfare, except on the small scale allowed by escalation risks at each remove. Hence, if the economic disparity between China and the anti-China coalition were one day to reach proportions that no longer allow a tolerable military balance to be maintained, the reaction must assume economic forms, even if it is wholly strategic in content. Only a fully democratic China could advance unimpeded to global hegemony, but then the governments of a fully democratic China would undoubtedly seek to pursue quite other aims, to maximize the happiness of the population rather than their own power. In the meantime, the strategic aim of the United States and other like-minded powers cannot be to outmaneuver and defeat China, but rather to dissuade its own self-defeating pursuit of military aggrandizement in the best interests of the peoples of the world, and China’s first of all”.


Author’s analysis is pretty much in line in what I believe after reading quite a few books about China and its raise. I absolutely agree that the only way to avoid confrontation hopefully economic and political without it turning into war, is for China implement democratic reform and allow removal of Communist party from power. However, I do not believe that it would be easy. It would require complete change of Western attitude to China, which is not possible without internal transformation of Western states, especially USA, that would suppress power of internal pro-China forces such as ideologically pro-communism intelligentsia and big business that benefits highly from access to Chinese lower paid and nearly regulation free environment. I am sure it would cause quite serious struggle, but I believe that America can handle it successfully and Chinese communism will be put to rest in the dust been of history next to the Soviet developed socialism and German National-socialism.

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