In This Review

The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order
The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order
By Rush Doshi
Oxford University Press, 2021, 432 pp.
Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence
Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence
By Ryan Hass
Yale University Press, 2021, 240 pp.

The best U.S. policy toward China would be based on an accurate assessment of Beijing’s strategic ambitions. These valuable books present the debate about that policy in clear terms and pose critical questions for Washington. It is indisputable that China views the United States as the main threat to its security, but that does not answer the question of how far Beijing intends to extend its own power. Does China merely seek more influence in existing international institutions? Does it want to dominate its region? Does it seek to displace the United States entirely as the dominant global power? Doshi, who assumed the position of China director on the U.S. National Security Council after writing this book, makes a strong argument for the worst-case scenario, in which China’s long-term aims are to break up the U.S. alliance system, establish a global network of military bases, monopolize cutting-edge technologies, dominate trade with most countries, and foster authoritarian elites around the world. As evidence, he quotes extensively from the often obscure writings and speeches of Chinese leaders and thinkers, then infers their concrete meaning from China’s increasingly assertive recent actions. He rejects as unrealistic both proposals for accommodation and strategies to subvert the regime. Instead, he suggests policies the United States could adopt to at once “blunt” China’s influence through more active multilateral diplomacy and “re-build” the U.S.-centered international order by strengthening its alliances and encouraging domestic revival.

Hass, who served on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, offers an equally thoughtful and informative analysis, but one that differs in significant ways from that of Doshi. He does not think China seeks to export its governance model, create a Sinocentric political or military bloc, or eliminate U.S. influence in international institutions. Beijing’s primary interests are to protect the regime from overthrow, secure control over its claimed national territories (including Taiwan), and maintain the international economic access necessary to sustain prosperity at home. In pursuit of these goals, China wants to weaken or eliminate the U.S. alliance system in Asia, stifle critical voices abroad, and gain an equal say in global institutions. China recognizes, however, that the United States still has power and that other major countries and regions, such as India, Japan, and Europe, will not accept Chinese domination. Hass therefore recommends some of the same policies as Doshi, such as strengthening U.S. alliances and engaging multilateral institutions, but also counsels the United States to welcome a stronger Chinese role in international rule-making, accept the need of many countries to balance between China and the United States, and seek coordination in areas of common interest, such as climate change and global public health.