How China Sees America

The Sum of Beijing's Fears

Published in: Foreign Affairs, v. 91, no. 5, Sep./Oct. 2012, p. 32-47

Posted on RAND.org on June 28, 2016

by Andrew J. Nathan, Andrew Scobell

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China has become one of a small number of countries that have significant national interests in every part of the world and that command the attention of every other country and every international organization. And perhaps most important, China is the only country widely seen as a possible threat to U.S. predominance. Although China's relative power has grown significantly in recent decades, the main tasks of Chinese foreign policy are defensive and have not changed much since the Cold War era: to blunt destabilizing influences from abroad, to avoid territorial losses, to reduce its neighbors' suspicions, and to sustain economic growth. Over the past decades China is now so deeply integrated into the world economic system that its internal and regional priorities have become part of a larger quest: to define a global role that serves Chinese interests but also wins acceptance from other powers. Chief among those powers, of course, is the United States.

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