In This Review

Interpreting China's Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future
Interpreting China's Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future
By Michael D. Swaine and Ashley J. Tellis
RAND, 2000, 308 pp

A sober and useful review of Chinese strategy. Apparently resting on English-language sources, this book sums up the views of RAND's chief China-watchers. One key judgment is that by 2020, China will have "many elements of a 1990s-era military inventory" in place. That may sound like a modest achievement, but the authors point out that the regional context and China's niche capabilities in certain areas (including space, information warfare, and some exotic technologies) mean that the results could be unsettling for both China's neighbors and the United States. The second and more important conclusion is that China pursues a "calculative strategy" -- nonideological, restrained, and increasingly international in outlook -- that will nonetheless reflect aspirations for local dominance and prestige. Neither "preemptive containment" nor "preemptive appeasement" are appropriate strategies in response. But even if the authors' preferred approach of "realistic engagement" sounds plausible, what precisely will it entail -- and how will we know if it works?