Cover: China


Domestic Change and Foreign Policy

Published 1995

by Michael D. Swaine


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This report analyzes the implications of political-military, social, intellectual, and economic change within China for the evolution of Chinese foreign policy over the next 10-15 years. The purpose of such analysis is to discern whether and how the profound changes under way in China could prove adverse to U.S. interests in Asia. The report finds that strong incentives will likely remain for China to adhere to the central tenets of its existing foreign policy during the period examined, marked by overall caution and pragmatism, a recognition of the need for a placid Asian security environment, and a balancing of both cooperation and competition with the West. China will probably become neither significantly more cooperative nor extremely uncooperative and/or belligerent toward the West; nor will it lapse into chaos and confusion as a result of domestic collapse or political fragmentation. Although policy continuity could pose significant challenges to Asia's security environment, the report argues that such challenges should prove manageable for the United States over the next 10-15 years. However, the report stresses that more adverse forms of Chinese external behavior could emerge during this period, largely associated with military intervention in politics or a major increase in the influence of ultra-conservative nationalistic sentiments upon foreign policy. To minimize the chances of such adversity, the report recommends that the United States strengthen and expand contacts with Chinese civilian and military leaders, avoid vaguely defined or broadly punitive economic or diplomatic actions against China, encourage more extensive and durable economic links with China that promote moderate growth, establish greater coordination and communication on China policy with regional allies and friends, and maintain current U.S. force levels in Asia.

"The most detailed and sophisticated analysis yet of the complex internal factors influencing Chinese foreign policy and the differing foreign policy views of the Chinese elite… At a time when America's China policy seems to be in disarray, with Congress and the administration veering in different directions, this report should be widely read."

- Foreign Affairs

"This detailed, solidly based and logically argued study… is especially valuable and deserves wide reading by those wanting a relatively easy introduction to the influences on domestic decision-making in China."

- The China Journal

This research was sponsored primarily by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. It was carried out under the auspices of the International Security and Defense Policy Center within RAND's National Defense Research Institute (NDRI), a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the defense agencies. Supplemental funding was also provided by the RAND Center for Asia-Pacific Policy.

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