The Sources of Chinese Conduct: Explaining Beijing's Assertiveness

Aaron L. Friedberg
Content Type
Journal Article
The Washington Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Winter 2015
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Starting in 2009, an increasing number of foreign observers (and many Chinese as well) began to note a shift towards more forceful or “assertive” behavior on the part of Beijing. Among the most frequently cited indications of this trend were: An internal debate among Chinese elites in which some participants advocated edging away from Deng Xiaoping's “hiding and biding” strategy and replacing it with something bolder and more self-confident; A “newly forceful, `triumphalist,' or brash tone in foreign policy pronouncements,” including the more open acknowledgement—and even celebration—of China's increasing power and influence; Stronger reactions, including the threatened use of sanctions and financial leverage, to recurrent irritations in U.S.–China relations such as arms sales to Taiwan and presidential visits with the Dalai Lama; More open and frequent displays of China's growing military capabilities including larger, long-range air and naval exercises, and demonstrating or deploying new weapons systems; A markedly increased willingness to use threats and displays of force on issues relating to the control of the waters, air space, surface features, and resources off China's coasts. These include ongoing disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam (among others) in the South China Sea, with Japan in the East China Sea, and with the United States regarding its conduct of surveillance and military exercises in areas from the Yellow Sea to the vicinity of Hainan Island.
Political Geography
United States, China, Taiwan, Beijing