What’s Past Is Prologue: China After Xi

What comes after Xi Jinping? The question itself seems premature to ask, given the near-certainty that Xi will assume a norm-breaking 3rd five-year term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the 20th Party Congress, to be held late next year. Indeed, from Beijing to Berlin to Washington DC, a consensus has emerged that Xi will steer China for at least the next decade, possibly even until 2035, the year Beijing has set for achieving status as a “modern socialist nation.”1 Some analysts are so confident of Xi’s enduring centrality for the country that they argue “[a]ll US political and policy responses to China…should be focused through the principal lens of Xi himself.”2 

Of course, it’s inarguable that Xi Jinping is the dominant figure in China’s political system, and in his nearly nine years leading the country, he has undertaken bold steps to reassert China’s international influence more in line with the country’s historical position in the global order. He has also overseen a dramatic expansion of the power, authority, and reach of the CCP in nearly all areas of domestic life. His influence cannot be overstated, and so long as Xi remains in power, he will call the shots.

But thinking past the Xi administration is nonetheless an important exercise, for it remains unclear precisely when the “Xi era” will end. Xi might well plan to retire at the 21st Party Congress in 2027. He might also die unexpectedly while in office, as Stalin did in 1953.  Or he may cling to power well into his 80s or 90s, finally expiring after a slow decline, as did Mao Zedong.

Utilizing the “principal lens of Xi” to conceptualize China’s future is an overly limiting heuristic, for important as he is in guiding the country’s current grand strategy, the forces shaping the country, its development model, and its foreign policy transcend the admittedly outsized role Xi has played.  

The argument put forward in this article is that China’s current approach to foreign and domestic policy is broadly a continuation and amplification of an important step-change in the country’s grand strategy that occurred in the middle of the Hu Jintao era (roughly 2006-07). In response to a series of internal and external events, as well as shifts in society and technology, Beijing formulated a number of new assessments about threats to its rule, its own status as a rising power, a broader shift towards global multipolarity, and the intentions of the United States towards China, all of which altered its development trajectory and international posture in profound—and enduring—ways. Thus, for all the unique characteristics of the Xi administration, he is steering the country in a direction that is now nearly 15 years old and shows no signs of adjusting course. As a consequence, in thinking about a “post-Xi” era, the relevant question is whether or not Xi’s successors hold the same assumptions as previous leadership groups about what is needed to maintain domestic stability and to grow China’s international influence and power.

The point here is not that Xi Jinping is irrelevant, or that he is a mere passive actor doing the bidding of larger, structural force. His bold leadership style, his high degree of risk tolerance, and a clear sense of impatience all mark an important break with Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. The differences between Xi and his predecessors become even clearer in regard to his reshaping of the domestic political system.3 Rather, the argument here is that Xi’s approach builds upon the groundwork laid by the Hu Jintao administration, in large part because Xi’s worldview appears broadly consistent with the post-2006/7 elite consensus that the global balance of power was shifting decisively in Beijing’s favor and that the Party needed to better control the domestic political and ideological space. Indeed, holding these views may well have been what positioned Xi for eventual succession in the first place.

While giving credit to Beijing’s ability to play “the long game,” the next decade is arguably the most challenging the CCP leadership will have faced since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.4 Several long-standing, but previously over-the-horizon structural dynamics, such as unfavorable demographic realities and stubbornly-low levels of productivity, are now beginning to bite on China’s economic prospects, and will not abate without politically painful reforms that cut against Beijing’s broader strategic assessments. Compounding this, access to international supply chains and overseas markets is becoming more constrained for Chinese firms as developed economies, especially the United States, take steps to choke off China’s ability to obtain key technologies, owing to national security and human rights concerns. These challenges are the direct result of, or have been aggravated by, the approach that the Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping administrations have taken to steer China’s domestic economy, protect the country’s “core interests,” and achieve the long-standing coal of “national rejuvenation.”5   

In the face of these challenges, Beijing may well conclude that it needs yet another shift in its development model and approach to international affairs, perhaps one that returns in style, if not substance, to Deng Xiaoping’s tactical approach that subordinated global aspirations to a focus on domestic development and a foreign policy typified by a low profile and circumspection. But as it stands, the logic in Beijing holds that China’s increasingly authoritarian, Party-dominant governance system and state-guided development model are the true path to delivering on the promise of an innovation-driven economy and the building a “modern socialist nation” that can deliver on the long-standing ambition of “rejuvenation.” Absent a radical shift in the core assumptions about the evolving global order and the tools needed to protect the Party’s grip on power, the path China is on will likely continue in a post-Xi era.

The myth of the “lost decade”

To understand where a post-Xi era might lead, it is helpful to first establish a baseline of where China was headed in the period leading up to Xi’s full leadership accession in late-2012 and early 2013. With hindsight, it is clear that in critical areas, Xi amplified rather than amended elite consensus on the need for China to assert itself more in international affairs. Some have gone so far as to argue that there is continuity dating back even farther than the reign of his immediate processor, Hu Jintao. As Avery Goldstein recently concluded, “though distinctive, [Xi’s approach to grand strategy] is not a fundamental departure from…his predecessors in the post-Cold War years.”6

Regardless of where one comes down on this, the period starting around 2006 and running through the 18th Party Congress in November 2012 represented a remarkable inflection point for Beijing, both in terms of its own domestic political and policy trajectory, but also how it viewed its external environment. Further, the idea that Hu Jintao’s ten years in power represented a “lost decade” for China, or that the Hu administration was “dull and uninspiring” fails to capture just how far China’s economic power and international standing advanced on Hu’s watch, even if Beijing procrastinated on key reform areas.7  

Viewed with the clarity of hindsight, several important shifts that would subsequently be described as core features of the Xi administration emerged in the period leading up to his full accession in 2012.8 These included:

Rise of China Inc. A “going out” strategy for China’s state-owned enterprises was formalized in the late 1990s as a way of building global champions and better utilizing China’s growing foreign exchange reserves. In 2003, Beijing established the State Asset Supervision and Administration Commission in order to ensure healthier, stronger SOEs. In December 2006, the State Council announced that “the state sector should maintain absolute control in national security and lifeline industries,” thus ensuring Beijing’s control over the commanding heights in the domestic economy. This move also signaled Beijing’s recognition of the political importance of SOEs after nearly a decade of reforms and privatization had left more conservative elements of the CCP grousing about the “abandonment of socialism.”9 The explosion in SOE balance sheets in response to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis produced anxiety amongst market-friendly intellectuals and government officials that was captured in the phrase “the state sector advances, the private sector retreats” (国进民退).

Indigenous innovation and the Rise of Industrial Planning. As Barry Naughton states is plainly, “Until 2006, China never had ‘industrial policy.’ Since about 2010, China has had industrial policy on a massive and unprecedented scale.”10 In January 2006, the State Council promulgated the “National Medium- and Long-Term Program for Science and Technology Development,” which outlined a vision for China to become a leader in innovation by 2020, and global S&T powerhouse by 2050. Critically, it also stressed the need to decrease the reliance on foreign-produced intellectual property through the development of “indigenous innovation” capabilities. As a 2010 report by the US Chamber of Commerce concluded, the “indigenous innovation political and economic campaign…amounts to an all-hands-on-deck call to action for the Chinese nation to roll up its sleeves and complete the mission of catching up and even surpassing the West in science and technology that began 200 years ago when foreigners with modern weaponry and transportation technology came calling as the Chinese dynastic system was dissipating.”11

From “Keeping a Low Profile” to “Actively Achieving Something.” From the early 1990s, China’s foreign policy had been guided by Deng Xiaoping’s “24 character” formulation, which stressed calmly and keenly observing global shifts, making tactical advancements where prudent, but generally maintaining a “low profile” so as not to provoke Western containment. The ultimate objective was to give China breathing space to prioritize economic development and expand its material foundation. As Deng stated in 1992, “We will only become a big political power if we keep a low profile and work hard for some years; and we will then have more weight in international affairs.”12 But “hide and bide,” as Deng’s formulation came to be commonly known in shorthand, was always understood to be a temporary state of affairs that was tied to perceptions of China’s aggregate strength and the global balance of power. In the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, Beijing began to shift from emphasizing “keeping a low profile” to “trying to achieve something” (有所作为), or as Hu Jintao stressed in a 2009 speech, “actively achieving something.”13 In that same speech, Hu also called on China to assume “more influential power in politics, more competitiveness in the economic field, more affinity in its image.”14 Of course, Beijing did not, and still has not, explicitly abandoned Deng’s maxim, but it was clear that a shift in thinking among foreign policy theorists and at the very top was underway by the late-Hu Jintao era, driven by a growing perception that China’s “comprehensive national power” was skyrocketing, while US power was on the wane.15 This view was shared by many nationalist intellectuals, including the authors of the popular 2009 polemic Unhappy China, which argued, “[w]ith Chinese national strength growing at an unprecedented rate, China should stop debasing itself and come to recognize the fact that it has the power to lead the world and the necessity to break away from Western influence.”16

“Assertive” China. Writing in late 2009, Michael Swaine described how, over the previous two years, both foreign and Chinese analysts were beginning to see “The image of the supposedly cautious, low-profile, responsibility-shirking, free-riding Beijing of the past giving way to one of a more confident, assertive (some say arrogant), anti–status quo power that is pushing back against the West, promoting its own alternative (i.e., restrictive or exclusionary) norms and policies in many areas, and generally seeking to test the leadership capacity of the United States.”17 In foreign policy, this manifested through actions big and small, ranging from the harassment of the USNS Impeccable in March 2009 to then-Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s hectoring Southeast Asian nations at the ASEAN Regional Forum in July 2010 (“China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact,” Yang told the Singaporean foreign minister). While an aggressive approach to the South China Sea is often attributed to Xi, research by Andrew Chubb finds that 2007 was an important “breakpoint” for growing Chinese assertiveness in its maritime and territorial disputes.18  This same posture was observed in the economic realm as well, and after clear U.S. culpability for the Global Financial Crisis, some observed a “brash new sense of self-confidence” emanating from Beijing.19 Diagnosing an actual decline in U.S. power, but also sensing an opportunity to boost its own international standing, Beijing made a series of bold macro-economic proposals, including Zhou Xiaochuan’s call in 2009 for a new global reserve currency to replace the dominance of the U.S. dollar. 

Fracturing US-China Relations. Despite having become somewhat de rigueur to mark the deterioration of the bilateral relationship between China and the US to the 2016 election of Donald Trump, in reality, a fracturing was evident as early as 2008. The causes of the friction were manifold, ranging from disagreements over trade and Taiwan to China’s growing assertion of territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing’s diagnosis for the downturn dated to 2010, specifically President Obama’s January arms sale to Taiwan and the February White House meeting with the Dalai Lama, both of which came within months of Obama’s visit to Beijing and the signing of a joint statement extolling mutual respect for “core interests.”20 Beijing viewed these moves as unnecessarily provocative and as proof positive that the US was still committed to “interfering” in areas China considered to be internal matters.21 Yan Xuetong stated bluntly in 2010, “As long as the Chinese economy grows faster than that of the United States, the competition between them to offer the best development model is also inevitable.”22 By January 2011, Henry Kissinger was warning of a possible “cold war” between the two countries, and of growing consensus in both Beijing and Washington “emphasizing conflict rather than cooperation.”23 

Instrumentalist Integration. The importance of active participation in the existing US-led global order, all the while registering dissatisfaction with its “undemocratic” nature, was evident in the Jiang Zemin era. Indeed, Jiang himself had announced at the 16th Party Congress in 2002, “the old international political and economic order, which is unfair and irrational, has yet to be changed fundamentally… We stand for establishing a new international political and economic order that is fair and rational.”24 Writing in the late 1990s, Wang Yizhou advocated that China temporarily accept its relatively limited international power and instead of attempting to publicly assert its interests, which would result in putting China “’on the stove’ for others to roast,’” Beijing should “be like the Money King” and insert itself into the existing international rules and then “act as circumstances dictate” until such time that the country had the requisite influence to more proactively shape the global order.25 President Obama’s 2014 public rebuke that China was a “free rider” in the international system notwithstanding, the 2000s had seen China actively integrate into—as well as construct its own—multilateral bodies and fora, including the WTO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the inaugural BRICS Summit in 2009, and ASEAN.

Domestic Ideological and Political Tightening. After a relatively relaxed approach to domestic security and ideological issues through the early- to mid-2000s, Beijing’s approach tightened markedly in response to a series of internal and external events, as well as a shifting perspective on the appropriate role that technology should play in public discourse. These ranged from a crackdown on Tibetan “separatists” after unrest broke out across the region in 2008, to a “strike hard” campaign in Xinjiang after violence broke out in Urumqi in July 2009. Writer (and future Novel Peace Prize winner) Liu Xiaobo was detained in December 2008 over his involvement with the Charter 08 manifesto, marking the opening of a new wave of repression for China’s intellectuals and activists. Beijing’s fears over the possible spread of “color revolutions” and the Arab Spring to China’s own streets was manifested in near paranoia over “subversive elements” and “hostile foreign forces” working to undermine the CCP in the country. The outburst of rage and frustration on new social media platforms such as Weibo in the aftermath of the 2011 Wenzhou train crash made visible for Beijing the “subversive” power of technology. Finally, political cleavages burst into the open with the rise and fall of Bo Xilai, triggering fears that elite cohesion was fracturing.

Taken together, one can already see many key antecedents of the Xi administration’s approach to domestic governance and international affairs well developed by the end of Hu’s second term in power. Not all elements, of course, and Xi has proven to be a leader who has defied popular expectations in terms of his ambition, his manifest sense of impatience, and his scorn for collective governance. He has shaped the system profoundly, while also clearly agreeing with many of the core assumptions that underpinned China’s changing approach to domestic and foreign policy beginning in the mid-2000s.

Several areas where Xi’s tenure is marked by strong discontinuity are worth briefly mentioning. First, Xi’s boldness, tolerance for risk, and a strong sense of impatience are dramatic departures from the post-Mao period. Beijing’s dramatic crackdown in Hong Kong over the past 24 months is one example of where Xi pushed ahead with a set of decisions that border on intemperance and have invited sanctions by the U.S. and worldwide condemnation. Xi’s campaign to exert CCP dominance over nearly all aspects of social and economic life is of such magnitude that it marks a paradigm shift, not simply movement along a spectrum. And Xi’s utter distain for collective leadership within the Party elite has resulted in the evisceration of many critical norms and de jure rules that had been put in place after Mao Zedong’s death to steer China clear of one-man dictatorship.

What’s Next?

For the sake of brevity, I elide the critically important questions of how Xi’s successor comes to power, and when this occurs. Obviously coming to power after the unexpected death of Xi, or after a military coup, would dramatically shape both who assumes power, and what is expected of them. Similarly, if Xi relinquishes power at, say, the 20th Party Congress in 2022 (he will not, for the record) versus holding on to power until 2035, the institutions of governance will have been spared more than a decade of Xi’s direct shaping and likely corrupting influence. 

With this admittedly important proviso, the first question to ask is whether Xi’s successor inherit a strong, confident, and rising China, or a stagnant nation, mired in external conflicts and internal challenges. While the temperament and ambitions of future leaders will undoubtedly play a critical role in steering China’s trajectory, if the post-Xi leader inherits a Party-state of vastly expanded powers, resources, and (perceived) capabilities, these de facto and de jure assets will shape what a leader thinks is conceivable and achievable. Just as Hu Jintao’s “assertiveness” towards the middle of his tenure likely resulted from the perception that China had more wealth and power to leverage over an increasing multipolar international order, a future leader of a still-rising China will continue to pursue the long-standing ambition of “national rejuvenation.” Thus, with great inherited power comes great ambition. Looked at from the inverse, Xi Jinping’s leadership style would have arguably been much less ambitious if he had assumed office in, say, 1997, in an era before China’s accession into the WTO and without the benefit of a decade of double-digit growth. 

Absent a sudden and sustained economic and political “rejuvenation” among the major Western democracies, any subsequent Chinese leader will likely continue to diagnose an ongoing shift in the global balance of power towards multipolarity, which China serving as the dominant “pole” in the Asia-Pacific. Some of this is ideology: The CCP has long believed political pluralism and economic liberalism to be genuinely unstable forces and inferior ways to organize human affairs. But a string of events over the past 15 years, from the Global Financial Crisis to Brexit to the recent assault on the U.S. Capitol Building by Trump supporters has had genuinely galvanizing effect on elite opinion in China, and Beijing views the shift in international power as enduring, if still incomplete.26 “The East is rising” will remain a fixture in Chinese foreign policy for the foreseeable future, and as a result, so too will a “wolf warrior” approach to diplomacy. 

The pursuit of great power status by future leaders will also likely entail “core interest” inflation, expanding outward the boundaries of issues, geographies, and institutions Beijing believes it must exert control over to protect its continued rise. Despite China’s longstanding protestations that it does not seek hegemony, the exigencies of sustaining economic growth, technological innovation, and the improving livings standards of a billion and a half people will almost demand that China continue to extend its international reach. There is nothing unique to China about this gravitational pull, and as good students of Paul Kennedy, Beijing is already weary of falling into what it some Chinese strategists call the “Paul Kennedy trap,” wherein imperial overstretch bankrupts the nation, but traps can be difficult to avoid, even if one is on the lookout.27 

Relatedly, if China does manage to power through the next decade of demographic, geopolitical, economic, financial, and social challenges, this will inevitably act as proof to Beijing that the more top-down, statist approach to development that it adopted starting in the mid-2000s is largely correct, if in need of the occasional tweak. But a political-economic system that can maintain domestic stability, drive growth, and produce technological innovation, all amidst a period of increasing geopolitical tensions, will likely prove immune to foreign and domestic pressure to change tack. No future leader will want to mess with (perceived) success, no matter what their political orientation.  

Of course, there is the possibility that Xi’s successor comes to power amidst a deep economic slump, or in the aftermath of a humiliating military defeat, and so the realm of actual and conceivable room for assertive action will have diminished considerably. This leaves open a few possibilities for an incoming leader. One comparison is Gerald Ford, who assumed the office of the presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal, presiding over a losing war effort in Vietnam, and in the midst of a domestic economic recession. While Ford’s constitutional powers were the same as his processor, the context within which he assumed power exerted a powerful constraining pressure on his authority. For Beijing, the result could be a prolonged period of “muddling through,” and proof that the previous statist approach to economic and innovation policy has led to a “Soviet-style outcome in which the occasional Sputnik illuminates galaxies of mediocrity,” in the memorable words of Loren Brandt and Thomas Rawski.28

If the next decade sees a much sharper slump for China, something more akin to the situation just after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, this may well open up space for a change in the political-economic model. Deng Xiaoping’s eventual rise and advocacy of a new growth model was facilitated by the perception that Mao’s late-era misrule had failed the country’s modernization efforts, or at least it necessitated a drastic overhaul. For a post-Xi leader, failure would need to be next to complete to overcome Beijing’s long-standing assumptions about the maintenance of power and the increasing hostility of the external environment for it to consider a real rework of the system.

But it certainly is possible, especially considering the impending demographic crunch coupled with Beijing’s persistent can-kicking on important structural issues, including efforts to boost productivity, support the health of the private sector, and reform its fiscal system. Add to this the growing external pressure to block elements of China’s integration with global technology, talent, financial, and capital markets precisely in reaction to the country’s current approach to national security, its state capitalist growth model, and its openly-stated ambition to become a global superpower.29 Beijing itself recognizes this growing quandary, but instead of a rethink of its current approach, the Xi administration has decided to double-down on many of the elements that have incited the international pushback to begin with. That many developed economies, including the United States, are converging in important respects with Beijing’s long-standing views about national security concerns over supply chains, the downsides (or spillover costs) of globalization, and the need for tighter control over the Internet only serves to strengthen the present assumptions underpinning Beijing’s approach to governance and foreign policy.

The above analysis hopefully points to some of the shared assumptions that have shaped China’s grand strategy for nearly two decades, and which will likely guide the country’s trajectory for the foreseeable future, both with or without Xi Jinping at the helm.

1. 确保全面建设社会主义现代化国家开好局, www.qstheory.cn/dukan/qs/2021-01/15/c_1126985070.htm

2. See Anonymous, “The Longer Telegram: Toward a New American China Strategy," The Atlantic Council Strategy Papers, 2021.

3. The best in-depth exploration of this remains Elizabeth Economy, The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the New Chinese State, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

4. See Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021).

5. There is an important debate on precisely what China’s grand strategy is and how it has been manifested since 1949. In particular, see Sulmaan Khan, Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2018); John Garver, China’s Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Avery Goldstein, "China’s Grand Strategy under Xi Jinping: Reassurance, Reform, and Resistance," International Security, 45:1 (2020), pp. 164-201; Randall L. Schweller and Xiaoyu Pu, "After Unipolarity: China’s Visions of International Order in an Era of U.S. Decline," International Security,  36:1 (Summer 2011), pp. 41-72; Andrew Scobell, et al, China’s Grand Strategy: Trends, Trajectories, and Long-Term Competition (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2020), https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2798.html

6. Avery Goldstein, "China’s Grand Strategy under Xi Jinping.”

7. Ian Johnson, “China’s Lost Decade,” The New York Review of Books, September 27, 2012; Sulmaan Khan, Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2018), pg.  208.

8. Of course, Xi was elevated to the Politburo Standing Committee in 2007 and over the next five years, was actively involved in many key policy areas, and he was far from a bystander. Thus, the clear demarcation between the Hu and Xi periods is more fluid than is assumed here. Nonetheless, Xi’s power to fundamentally shift policy would have been limited until such a time that he was given his full bureaucratic powers, and crucially, able to install allies in key organizational positions.

9. See Sarah Eaton, The Advance of the State in Contemporary China: State-Market Relations in the Reform Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

10. Barry Naughton, The Rise of China’s Industrial Policy, 1978 to 2020, Centro de Estudios China-México, 2020. Available at https://dusselpeters.com/CECHIMEX/Naughton2021_Industrial_Policy_in_China_CECHIMEX.pdf

11. James McGregor, “China’s Drive for ‘Indigenous Innovation:’ A Web of Industrial Policies,” US Chamber of Commerce, 2010, https://www.uschamber.com/report/china%E2%80%99s-drive-indigenous-innovation-web-industrial-policies

12. Quoted in Chen Dingding and Jianwei Wang. "Lying Low No More? China’s New Thinking on the Tao Guang Yang Hui Strategy," China: An International Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2011), pp. 195-216.

13. Quoted in Rush Doshi, "Hu’s to blame for China’s foreign assertiveness?" Brookings Institution, January 22, 2019, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/hus-to-blame-for-chinas-foreign-assertiveness/

14. Quoted in Bonnie S. Glaser and Benjamin Dooley, “China’s 11th Ambassadorial Conference Signals Continuity and Change in Foreign Policy,” China Brief, Vol. 9, No. 22 (2009).

15. For an example of this shift in thinking at the sub-elite level, see 王科, "中国的综合国力与国际政治定位: 兼论邓小平’有所作为’思想," 中共四川省委党校学报. 2011, No. 2.

16. Quoted in Jude Blanchette, China’s New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 98-99.

17. Michael Swaine, “Perceptions of an Assertive China,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 3, 2010.

18. Andrew Chubb, "PRC Assertiveness in the South China Sea: Measuring Continuity and Change, 1970–2015," International Security, Vol. 45, No. 3, (Winter 2020/21), pp. 79-121.

19. Edward Wong, "Booming, China Faults U.S. Policy on the Economy," The New York Times, June 17, 2008

20. "’对台军售和达赖’ 困扰中美关系 2010年中美恐翻脸," https://world.huanqiu.com/article/9CaKrnJmQee

21. Interestingly, more nuanced efforts to explore the “assertive turn” argument concluded that the late Hu Jintao era was not necessarily more assertive than the behavior of previous leaders. In other words, “The new assertiveness meme underestimates the degree of assertiveness in certain policies in the past, and overestimates the amount of change in China’s diplomacy in 2010 and after.” See Alastair Iain Johnston. “How New and Assertive Is China’s New Assertiveness?” International Security, Vol. 37. No. 4. (Spring 2013), pp. 7–48.

22. Yan Xuetong, “The Instability of China-US Relations,” The Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol. 3, No. 3, Autumn 2010, Pages 263–292

23. Henry Kissinger, “Avoiding a U.S.—China Cold War,” The Washington Post, January 14, 2011.

24. The full text of Jiang’s remarks can be found at https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/topics_665678/3698_665962/t18872.shtml

25. 王逸舟, 中国崛起与国际规则, http://www.aisixiang.com/data/89511.html

26. This view can be found in Russia as well. See Sergei Karaganov and Dmitry Suslov, “A New World Order: A View from Russia,” Russia in Global Affairs, Oct. 4, 2018, https://eng.globalaffairs.ru/pubcol/A-new-world-order-A-view-from-Russia–19782.

27. 秦亚青, “如何避免三大: ‘兴衰陷阱,’’” https://hdjt.hqu.edu.cn/info/1012/1999.htm

28. Loren Brandt and Thomas G. Rawski, “China’s Great Boom as a Historical Process,” IZA DP No. 13940, December 2020. Available at https://www.iza.org/publications/dp/13940/chinas-great-boom-as-a-historical-process.

29. An interesting discussion of this can be found in M. Liu and K.S. Tsai, “Structural Power, Hegemony, and State Capitalism: Limits to China’s Global Economic Power,” Politics & Society, August 2020.