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Strategic Disharmony and Grand Strategic Vacuum: Challenging the Traditional Perceptions on China’s Strategic Behaviour

By Victor Cheng


This is a macro-historical study of China's strategic behaviour. China’s national defence has long posed an issue for Western observers and scholars. For generations, China’s attitude to warfare has been considered markedly pacifistic, and its concomitant military strategies primarily defensive. However, in his book Cultural Realism, Harvard’s Alastair Iain Johnston surprisingly concludes that Chinese strategic policy has been dominated by fundamentally the same culture of hard Realpolitik as that of the West. The perception of a belligerent China has attracted much attention and debate in the field. Arguing that existing theories are inadequate in explaining China’s strategic behaviour, this paper proposes to adopt new approaches — “strategic disharmony” and “grand strategic vacuum” — as key concepts not only in the study of China’s strategic history but also to give a much needed new perspective on our understanding of China’s national defence policy and its impact on today’s global security. Given its contemporary relevance, in view of China’s recent multibillion-dollar military build-up against the West, this paper proposes to take a critical stance vis-a-vis the previous scholarship with the aim of advancing the theoretical development of the field

Topics: Other Social Sciences, Chinese military history, human violence, Strategic culture
Publisher: Nordic Institue of Asian Studies
Year: 2007
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