THE NATIONAL INTEREST — China’s primary strategic goal in contemporary times has been the accumulation of “comprehensive national power.” This pursuit of power in all its dimensions—economic, military, technological and diplomatic—is driven by the conviction that China, a great civilization undone by the hostility of others, could never attain its destiny unless it amassed the power necessary to ward off the hostility of those opposed to this quest.
This vision of strengthening the Chinese state while recovering China’s centrality in international politics—both objectives requiring the accumulation of “comprehensive national power”—suggests that the aims of Beijing’s grand strategy both implicate and transcend the United States’ and China’s other Asian rivals, to replace U.S. primacy in Asia writ large. For China, which is simultaneously an ancient civilization and a modern polity, grand strategic objectives are not simply about desirable rank orderings in international politics but rather about fundamental conceptions of order.
Because the acquisition of comprehensive national power is meant to both increase the Chinese state’s control over its society and maximize the country’s overall capabilities relative to its foreign competitors, Beijing has consistently pursued four specific operational aims since the revolution—though the instruments used to achieve these ends have varied over time.
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