China: Domestic Change and Foreign Policy

In This Review

China: Domestic Change and Foreign Policy

By Michael D. Swaine
RAND, 1995
144 pp. $15.00
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This RAND report is 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. The author sees three different tendencies in security policy. The first is a mainstream, balance-of-power, realpolitik approach that combines suspicion of the United States with awareness of the need for continued cooperation with the West and the maintenance of a placid regional environment. Second is a more conservative variant of the mainstream that stresses Western hostility toward China. Finally, there is the non-mainstream view of a small minority that recognizes the growing importance of global interdependence and the consequent imperative to qualify or reject the realpolitik approach for a more cooperative stance toward the West.

The author warns that "strong, public U.S. pressures on China in a variety of areas (including the Taiwan issue) could greatly increase the likelihood of strongly anti-Western conservative nationalists gaining control of the Chinese political system." To minimize the chances of the most adverse outcomes, he urges the United States to strengthen and expand both official and unofficial contacts with Chinese civilian and, especially, military leaders; to avoid vaguely defined or broadly punitive economic or diplomatic actions against China; and to encourage more extensive and durable economic links that promote moderate Chinese growth. 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. It is a reminder of the potentially huge costs the United States will pay if it begins to treat China as an enemy.