Are the U.S. and China heading for a new cold war? With President Xi Jinping tightening his grip on power, China has positioned itself to expand its influence all across Asia and into the West. In response, the Trump Administration is rolling out a new Asia grand strategy to counter China’s militarization and expansionism.

But for the U.S. to compete effectively with a “revisionist” China,  it is critical that American strategists develop a deeper understanding of how China’s strategy and statecraft has developed in the modern period. This one-week course will examine the goals and purposes of China’s grand strategy – and, more specifically, its “dream” of “great national rejuvenation.”

In this seminar, students will explore major continuities and discontinuities in China’s approach to the modern world from the height of the Qing Empire through 2020 (a period roughly equivalent to the existence of the United States). And they will examine how current Chinese strategy seeks to shape its future.

The course will consist of two sessions per day. Each morning, students will participate in a seminar led by China expert Daniel Blumenthal. Each afternoon, they will hear from a leading scholar or practitioner on that individual’s area of expertise. Past guest speakers have included Andrew May (Office of Net Assessment, Department of Defense), Ely Ratner (Council on Foreign Relations), and Derek Scissors (American Enterprise Institute), among others.

Images courtesy White House | U.S. Department of Defense

Dan Blumenthal on Chinese Grand Strategy


Daniel Blumenthal

Daniel Blumenthal is the Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations. Mr. Blumenthal has both served in and advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session



Discussion Questions:

  1. What was the strategic situation of the Qing Dynasty? How did the Qing respond to that situation? What were their strategic objectives?
  2. How did China understand itself in relation to its various neighbors—the Mongols, East Eurasians, Vietnam, and Korea? What policies did it pursue toward those neighbors? What was “Sinification”?
  3. Why did the Qing Dynasty fall?



Discussion Questions:

  1. What was China’s strategic situation after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty? How did it respond to that situation?
  2. What would it mean to “reunify” the Qing Dynasty empire? ow How successful has China been in reconstituting its historical holdings?
  3. Is China’s imperial mindset compatible with the Westphalian system of international relations based on “sovereign equals”?
  4. How did Mao understand China’s strategic situation post-WWII? How did he respond to that situation? What were his strategic objectives? How did he use alliances to achieve his objectives?
  5. Mao is a towering historical figure—part revolutionary, part Chinese emperor, part geopolitician. When it comes to geopolitics and strategy, which was the “dominant Mao”?
  6. In what ways has China become a modern nation-state? In what ways is it still a premodern civilization/empire?



Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Deng Xiaoping understand China’s strategic situation? How did he respond to that situation? What were his strategic objectives?
  2. What was “reform and opening”? What did Deng hope to achieve with this policy?
  3. In what ways has China become a “post-modern,” globalized nation? In what was does it remain a modern nation-state? An empire?
  4. Are Deng’s changes reversible? Is it possible to de-globalize China?



Discussion Questions:

  1. Why did the CCP end its policy of reform and opening?
  2. How do Chinese leaders today understand China’s strategic situation? What internal threats do they see? What is their perception of the U.S.?
  3. Is there a unique Leninist Party approach to the world? Is the CCP capable of reform which could enable it to tackle the challenges of the 21st century?



Discussion Questions:

  1. How have Xi and the CCP responded to their strategic environment? What actions have they taken toward internal threats, their neighbors, and the U.S.?
  2. What continuities and discontinuities do you see with China’s strategy, past and present? In what ways is it still acting as an empire? A nation-state? A globalized economy?
  3. What are the strategic implications of China’s grand strategy for the U.S. and its allies?

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