Commentary: China’s Quest for Global Primacy by Timothy R. Heath, Derek Grossman, Asha Clark (Rand Publication)

All the three authors of the paper are senior defence analysts with RAND Corporation and have extensive experience in studying and analysing China. Prior to joining RAND Timothy Heath served as the senior analyst for the US Pacific Command’s China Strategic Focus Group. Derek Grossman served over a decade as the daily intelligence briefer to the director of the Defence Intelligence Agency, and to the assistant secretary of defence for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs. Asha Clark is an experienced Defence Analyst and has worked with various think tanks and also with the US Government.

Conflict and/or Competition

Deng Xiaoping had emphasised, “Hide your strength, bide your time” as the guiding philosophy of Chinese Foreign Policy. However, even before Xi Jinping came to power, calls for a reinterpretation of the quote had started rising[1]. In less than half a decade, post the ascendance of Xi Jinping, most observers agree that Deng Xiaoping’s policy has been irrevocably abandoned[2].

US and China are today the two premier powers in the world, with the gap between their comprehensive national power (CNP) diminishing rapidly. This has often raised concerns of as to whether the two powers are likely to fall into the Thucydides trap.[3] The postulation has been further reinforced by Xi’s pledge that by 2049, China will have achieved the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” – a term that encapsulates both economic and territorial significance[4]. However, the Chinese author’s assert that “it is true that the United States has come to regard China as its most important competitor, but that does not mean that China and the United States will eventually engage in war or other forms of all-out conflict and confrontation”[5]. Albeit, simultaneously they blame the US and the west for competition and likely conflict.[6]

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