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Containment or Engagement o f China? Calculating Beijing’s Responses ~ David Shambaugh that the People’s Republic of China (PRC)is becoming a defining element in post-Cold War international politics, but there is much debate about what this entails and how the world should deal with an ascendant China. China’s rise and behavior are particularly bedeviling to the United States, but Beijing also poses substantial challengesto Asian and European nations as well as international regimes. Whether China will become a military threat to its neighbors, an adversary of the United States, a systemic challenge to the global order, or an cultural-ideological challenge to the West remain open questions.’ But China’s sheer size and growing power are already altering the contours of Asian security, international commerce, and the global balance of power. A robust debate is under way in Western and Asian nations about how best to deal with the awakened dragon. The uncertainties about China’s future capabilities and intentions, and the debate about alternative policy options, have spawned a lucrative cottage industry among analysts and pundits in academia, corporations, banks, governments, and the media worldwide. Analysts can reasonably estimate China’s economic and military power a decade or more hence based on its present and projected financial, technological and material resources. Far more difficult to predict is China’sinternal political and social cohesion, and how Beijing will wield its new strength. Will China be a satisfied mature power or an insecure nounem riche power? Will it become a power at all? Will it flex its muscles or will they atrophy? Will China hold together or fall apart? Will its polity evolve liberally or revert to a dictatorial tyranny? Does Beijing seek regional hegemony or peaceful coexistence with its neighbors? Will the PRC play by the established rules of the international organizations and regimes, or does Beijingseek to undermine and change the rules and institutions? Do China’s leaders understand the rules and David Shambaugh is Professor of Political Science and lnternationul Affairs and Director of the Gaston Sigur Centerfor East Asian Studies at the George Washington University.He is Editor of The Journal of Northeast Asian Studies and former Editor of The China Quarterly. 1. See David Shambaugh, ”China’s Military: Real or Paper Tiger?” Washington Quarterly, Vol. 19, No. 1(Spring 1996),pp. 19-36. The best case for China as a cultural-ideological challenge is made by Samuel Huntington in “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Summer 1993), pp. 22-49. International Security, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Fall 1996),pp. 180-209 0 1996 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 180 Containment or Engagement of China? 1 181 accept their premises? Can China meet its existing bilateral and multilateral obligations? These are some of the pressing questions that fuel the current debates about China and how to cope with it. This article explores these and related questions by addressing key domestic factors that will shape China’s external posture in the near term, and how domestic actors will respond to the international environment and alternative policies pursued by Asian and Western governments. Its central argument is that containment of China is a badly flawed policy option, but that a policy of ”engagement”-while preferable from a Western and Asian standpoint-will not be fully reciprocated by Beijing. For numerous reasons, China will be reluctant to respond positively to the policy of ”engagement,” yet this remains the best option available to the international community at present. Engagement, in and of itself, should not be the policy goal. Rather, it is a process and a vehicle to the ultimate goal of integrating China into the existing rule-based, institutionalized, and normative international system. Engagement is the means, integration the end. Much work needs to be done both to bring China into international multilateral regimes and to inculcate their norms in Chinese officials and citizens. The evidence presented in this article suggests that such inculcation and integration will be extremely difficult at best, and will most likely be resisted for many years to come. The next section places the current China debates in context...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 180-209
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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