Shaping China's Future in World Affairs: The U.S. Role

  • April 01, 1996

In April 1996, the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute held its Seventh Annual Strategy Conference. This year's theme was, "China Into the 21st Century: Strategic Partner and . . . or Peer Competitor." Robert G. Sutter, a Senior Specialist in International Policy with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, sets the scene for his discussion of the U.S. role in China's future by providing a comprehensive analysis of the key factors that shape China's domestic and international policies. He outlines a mixed picture--a regime today that is pragmatic in its international political and economic relations but highly protective on territorial and sovereignty issues. He also notes that it is a regime in transition and articulates the various interpretations of where that transition might be headed. But if understanding China is vital to effective U.S. policy, so too are achieving consensus on U.S. objectives and framing coherent courses of action. On this count, Dr. Sutter finds several competing outlooks at work, both within and outside the U.S. Government. His review of these suggests that Chinese leaders will have as much difficulty predicting the future course of American policy as the other way around. Dr. Sutter concludes his paper with several useful guidelines for those charged with formulating instrumental policy with respect to China. These insights complete a thorough survey of the major issues, interactions, and choices which will shape the U.S.-China strategic relationship.