The following is an excerpt of the second edition of Red Star Over the Pacific: China’s Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy.
China has a dream. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials tell us so. President Xi Jinping, who ranks first among them, made “Chinese Dream” his credo soon after ascending to China’s top post in 2012. And this is no mere slogan; it encapsulates CCP officialdom’s vision of China’s purposes and aspirations, first and foremost of which is “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” President Xi proclaims that fulfilling this “great renewal” constitutes “the greatest dream for the Chinese nation in modern history.” This book investigates what the Chinese Dream means for Chinese maritime strategy, all the way from the lofty realm of high purpose down to the nitty-gritty of how seagoing Chinese forces may coerce, deter, and fight to carry forth national purposes
What does rejuvenating China involve? It means making the nation prosperous and confident at home and influential abroad. There is a pronounced economic component to the Chinese Dream. In part the dream seeks to raise disposable incomes for urban and rural dwellers alike, reduce income inequality, improve access to medical care, enlarge physical living space for average citizens, and increase education levels by raising the proportion of the population holding college degrees. By the middle of the twenty-first century, when China will mark the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic, the CCP aims to rival the economies of other developed countries.
But there is also a foreign-policy component to the dream. China wants to assume its rightful station as a pole in a multipolar world, presumably as Asia’s dominant power. To what extent local primacy requires reducing America’s influence and presence remains unclear. At a minimum, though, Beijing sees the postwar, U.S.-led security architecture in Asia as out-of-date and out of step with China’s vision for the future regional order. Indeed, a January 2017 State Council white paper titled China’s Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation bluntly derides the arrangements that emerged from the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty as “old security concepts” premised on a “Cold War mentality” and on a “zero-sum game.” Such sentiments are noteworthy because these purportedly obsolete concepts furnish the basis for regional peace and prosperity as well as bilateral U.S. alliances across Asia. They are also noteworthy because communist China, though not a founder of the UN system instituted in San Francisco, is one of five permanent UN Security Council members entrusted with upholding it. It is a coguarantor of the UN system yet now denounces that system in unequivocal terms.
While objections to hegemony and other manifestations of U.S. primacy in Asia have constituted a staple of Chinese diplomacy since the communist regime’s inception in 1949, China’s burgeoning power enables Beijing to make good on its intent to alter the U.S.-led status quo and revise the international order to its liking. The logic of the Chinese Dream, accordingly, mandates that Beijing mold the existing order in ways that accommodate Chinese power, ambitions, and interests.