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."
Dr. Samuel S. Kim of Columbia University argues that, while post-Tiananmen China is a growing regional military power, it is, almost paradoxically, a weak state both pretending and trying to be a strong one. By flexing its muscles with its weaker neighbors, China, is largely compensating for self-doubts about its national image and strength. What the world sees in China, a modernizing, economically robust, and assertive regional hegemon and world power "want-to-be," is, Dr. Kim asserts, at least in part a facade. Although China has made remarkable economic progress in the past few years, those who trumpet its rise do not consider its massive internal contradictions involving social, political, demographic, and environmental problems. Dr. Kim makes the point that weaknesses in those areas cannot be overcome by purchasing modern weapons, even those high-tech weapons that bolster a nation's claim to being a major military power. The United States is, and in all likelihood will remain, a Pacific power. China, despite the limitations Dr. Kim examines herein, will be an immense factor in the strategic balance of power in the Pacific region.