The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order review: A contest for global leadership


China doesn’t want to play America’s second fiddle, new book claims, and Xi Jinping’s foreign policy is trying to achieve that goal with a clear grand strategy

China doesn’t want to play America’s second fiddle, new book claims, and Xi Jinping’s foreign policy is trying to achieve that goal with a clear grand strategy

In 494 BC. AD, the rising powers of Yue and Wu in what is now Zhejiang and Jiangsu struggled for influence. King Goujian of Yue’s attack on Wu ended in disaster. To save his country from extinction, King Goujian made himself a servant in the court of King Fuchai of Wu. He lived as a commoner, cleaned the stables, and showed utmost loyalty to King Fuchai. , which eventually earned him a pardon. Back in his kingdom, King Goujian slept on brushwood and licked the gallbladder of a slaughtered animal daily so as not to forget the humiliation suffered in Wu. He also quietly rebuilt his state’s capacity and waited for a chance to take revenge. About a decade later, a stronger Yue invaded and conquered a declining Wu. This story, more parable than story, has a lasting cultural impact on modern China and was frequently cited by Chinese nationalists during the “Century of Humiliation”.

The parable, writes Rush Doshi in his book, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace the American Orderwas part of the “cultural knowledge” from which Deng Xiaoping’s post-Cold War guideline—“hiding one’s abilities and biding one’s time (Tao Guang Yang Hui)”—emerged.

What makes Rush’s book, the result of meticulous study of Chinese Communist Party documents and leaders’ statements, different from contemporary literature on China is not only its scholarly depth, but also because it places China in the context of an ongoing historical and cultural process.

The largest navy in the world

Xi Jinping’s aggressive foreign policy is not fundamentally different from Deng’s openness or engagement. Rather, it is part of a long game that China is playing with a clear grand strategy. For a country that endured “a century of humiliation” at the hands of invading forces and a poor, backward agrarian society during the days of the communist revolution, China has come a long way. It is now the world’s second largest economy, a manufacturing and technological powerhouse and has the world’s largest navy. What does he want next? Will China be willing to play second fiddle to the US in a US controlled world order or will it attempt to supplant the US as world leader and build a new order? centered on China? Rush adamantly argues that the competition between the United States and China is about who should lead the world order.

During the Cold War, China entered into a “quasi-alliance” with the United States against its common rival, the former Soviet Union. But a set of historical developments, what Rush calls the “traumatic trifecta” – the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, the Gulf War of 1990-91 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – changed thinking. strategy in Beijing. While the Tiananmen Square protests underscored the challenges facing the revolution at home, the Gulf War reinforced America’s growing global military supremacy. The demise of the Soviet Union was not only seen as a setback for communist regimes around the world, but also ended the bipolar order, freeing the United States from its calculation and commitments to the cold War. China began to view the US as a new adversary and adopted a long-term strategy, aimed at “blunting” the US-led order and building a new one with Chinese characteristics.

During this period, a weaker China adopted asymmetric strategies to blunt American leadership – it built its own economic capabilities, invested in submarines, anti-mine and anti-ship missiles as part of its “sea denial” approach and joined US international institutions in limiting America’s ability to use them. And Deng’s axiom of hiding and waiting has continued to guide China. But the 2008 financial crisis that began in the United States and crippled Western economies prompted China to believe that the United States was entering a period of relative decline.

Not aggressive

It was during this period that China adopted a more active role at the international level. In 2009, Hu Jintao said there was “a major shift in the international balance of power” and it was time for China to “actively achieve something”. The 2016 election of Donald Trump as President of the United States accelerated this change, and under Xi Jinping China would take more aggressive steps to replace the United States as world leader and build a new order.

The long game is not a non-partisan theoretical work on the evolution of the international system. Rush, a former Brookings researcher who is currently in the Biden administration, is honest when he writes about what the United States should do to counter China and maintain its primacy over the world order.

He also makes a candid assessment of America’s decline, which he says began in 2008. But his key argument is that there is nothing fatalistic about the decline of American power.

The United States has experienced several “waves of decline” over the past century and rebounded. He argues that the United States should adopt the same brutal and constructive strategy that China adopted in the face of the new challenge. America, he argues, should overthrow the order China is trying to build using asymmetric strategies and rebuild the American order with liberal values ​​to ensure it remains the world leader.

The unanswered question is whether the United States has the economic and institutional capacity to play a long game against China as China has done for decades. While the United States has faced waves of decline and rivalry in the past, no rival, as Rush himself points out, has come as close to America in economic and military power as China. This reality makes the employability of its theoretical formulations more difficult.

The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace the American Order; Rush Doshi, OUP, ₹1,395.

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