Winning the ideological competition with China

The 2017 US National Security Strategy describes a vision of the international arena defined by a return of great power competition, with China as the leading rival of the United States seeking to challenge the liberal international order.1  As Robert Kagan recently argued, authoritarianism has reemerged as “a profound ideological, as well as strategic, challenge.”2  Ideology, or a collection of normative beliefs and the practices that approximate the realization of these about the way domestic socio-economic and political life should be organized, as well as a corresponding vision of the way international affairs should ideally be structured and conducted, is clearly important to understanding the challenge that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) pose to the United States and the liberal international order.  It reflects the lessons that individuals (as the bearers of belief systems) and national leaderships (as the guiding hands at the helm of the ship of state) hold about their nations’ history, identity, role in the world, and vision for the future.  At the same time as it has this fundamental role, ideological constructs are often also deliberately deployed to achieve specific goals. Thus, stating that the US is a liberal democracy underpinned by the rule of law, and China is a neo-totalitarian dictatorship where the law is merely a tool of governance is both accurate on some level as a description and also a statement that carries political meaning and impact.  Such descriptions certainly oversimplify to some extent and cannot capture the totality of lived experience in either country, and both nations diverge (sometimes substantially) from such values in practice, but for the purposes of this discussion they can serve as useful characterizations.  What role then does ideology and ideological competition play between the world’s most powerful liberal democracy and the world’s most technologically-sophisticated communist dictatorship?  And how might the US leverage its own identity and ideals to compete and win such a great power competition with China?3

The debate over ideology and the China challenge     

While China’s size, power, and values set it up as a rival to the United States in ways reflected in the US National Security Strategy, not all observers see China as a threat to the liberal international order.  For example, a recent RAND analysis by Mazarr, et. al, concludes that China is “not an opponent or saboteur of the postwar international order, but rather… a conditional supporter.”4  Another RAND analysis by Scobell, et. al, contends that China is “not an adversary” of the United States, but merely a “competitor.”5  Noting the capitalist elements of the country’s socio-economic system, some commentators imply that China is communist in name only, with others even encouraging the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to “drop ‘Communist’ from its name,”6 given that it retains little more than a “nominal adherence to antiquated Marxist ideology and Leninist politics.”7

 For some observers, such as Kenneth Lieberthal and Wang Jisi, the differences dividing Washington and Beijing are seen as largely centered on misunderstanding and mistrust more than a broad-gauge ideological difference.8  Graham Allison and John Mearsheimer see the growing tensions between the United States and China largely as the result of the differential rates of growth between great powers in an anarchic international system, not about contending ideological visions per se.9  Still other analysts, such as James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon argue that whatever other problems may beset it, the US-China relationship is characterized by “an absence of ideological competition,” while Lyle Goldstein agrees, arguing that “the Cold War and related ideological struggles are now long past.”10 

What this long list of China analysts and many others have in common is the assumption that national interests are the predominant driving force in the Sino-US relationship, which leads to at least some degree of optimism that it can be managed in a conventional manner—fundamentally different than the way Soviet-US interests needed to be addressed. Not only are such observers dismissive of ideology, they are inclined to treat other values as of little consequence. National interests are, thus, not affected in any noteworthy fashion by the values embraced by a country’s leadership. Such reasoning gained popularity in the aftermath of the Cold War and is still widely applied to the Sino-US relationship in the era of leadership by Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. 

By contrast, other experts argue that ideas about what an appropriate domestic order looks like, what international norms should be, and the nature and aims of global society are very much part of China’s vision of struggle with the United States and that it is a mistake to underestimate China’s intentions and the implications of its rise, or to avoid competing in the realm of ideology.  For example, Didi Kirsten Tatlow describes Chinese ideology as a combination of ancient and modern inputs intended by the Party to help pacify China and extend the CCP’s influence.11 Anne Marie Brady has noted that Xi Jinping has referred to united front activities in foreign lands as a “magic weapon” for the CCP’s efforts to shape a world safe for Beijing’s communist rulers.12  Likewise, John Garnaut has described the role of ideology in Xi Jinping’s China as reflecting the Chinese leader’s view of artists and writers, in an echo of Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art, as “engineers of the soul” with an obligation to advance the interests of the Party-state.  As Garnaut notes, “Xi Jinping has reinvigorated ideology to an extent we have not seen since the Cultural Revolution.”13

A renewed emphasis on ideology at home and abroad

Debates over the meaning of China’s rise, the importance of ideology in the growing challenge China poses to world order, and how to respond to this challenge are heavily shaped by what China is saying and doing at home and abroad. Domestically, in addition to China’s much commented-upon social credit scoring system, the CCP has recently released a mobile application called Study the Great Nation that has drawn comparisons with Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book, with work units and schools mandating usage and evaluating employees and students on their mastery of Xi Jinping’s speeches and “thought.”14  Similar to the experiences of minorities and intellectuals under Mao, China over the past decade has accelerated its colonization and ethnic cleansing programs in Tibet and Xinjiang while also demolishing Protestant and Catholic churches, arresting rights-defense lawyers, and carrying out campaigns to root out foreign influence and tighten ideological controls in academia and think-tanks.15  And “hostile foreign forces” are returning as Beijing’s favored explanation for unwelcome developments such as the 2015 bursting of the Shanghai stock market bubble, while the CCP has also launched campaigns to report “foreign spies” and to discourage Chinese women from “dangerous love” with such agents of espionage.16  Guangzhou has even offered $1500 rewards for information leading to the arrest of foreign proselytizers involved in unregistered religious activities.17      

Abroad, Xi’s administration has sought to reinvigorate China’s ideological influence, rolling out ideas and normative positions to advance its vision of what the world should look like and how international relations should be conducted.  At the 2014 Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building in Asia (CICA), Xi argued that Asian problems should be solved “by Asians themselves” (i.e., without involvement of the United States).18  Chinese leaders have also argued that global governance led by the West is “deteriorating” and should be replaced by the Chinese concept of a “community of common destiny” (人类共同体).19  Beijing has even offered up a “China solution” (中国方案) intended to suggest that China’s experience and vision of order represent a different, more authentic, and more effective pathway to the future than liberal democracy while arguing that each country has the sovereign right to choose its own development pathway.20  In pursuit of influence abroad, China has also sought to export facial recognition, policing and crowd control technologies aimed at helping other authoritarian regimes resist calls for change and remain in power.21  It has also advanced its own position through the export of digital infrastructure produced by firms like Huawei and ZTE, which are widely suspected of tight links to the Chinese military and intelligence services and whose data protections are viewed by many security experts with great suspicion.  

Despite the CCP’s renewed enthusiasm for ideological purity under Xi, China’s leaders have betrayed almost all the core values that the CCP leadership claimed conferred legitimacy on it at the time of the revolution, including land reform, the abolition of exploitation and wage slavery, and the transformation in the relations of production.  Instead, since the late 1970s when China began its reform and opening, Beijing has explicitly endorsed the goal of letting some get rich first so as to build up the means of production through capitalism.  Following the massacre of unarmed students by the military in June 1989, the Party sought to rebuild its legitimacy by embracing an identity built around the idea of “wounded nationalism” and race hatred directed against outsiders (especially the West and Japan) keyed around the admonition to “never forget national humiliation.”22  By the late 1990s, China’s supreme leader Jiang Zemin even announced a policy aimed at pulling capitalists into the Party, further transforming it into a vehicle to serve the interests of the political leaders, and their families and associates.  In so doing, the Party leadership was merely making explicit its role as what the great Yugoslav thinker Milovan Đjilas called “the new class,” or what Marx called “a class conscious of its own identity and thus capable of action.”23 

Fifteen years later, by the time Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” narrative of ‘national rejuvenation’ and martial glory had been announced, the transformation from a focus on class to a focus on nation had been completed.  Literature such as Wolf Totem and movies such as Wolf Warrior 2 have been best sellers, despite the fact that such works glorify values of bourgeois nationalism that true Marxist class analysts would deem fascist and reactionary.24  Indeed, Beijing has shuttered the Maoist discussion forum ‘Utopia’ and arrested Marxist students who sought to organize for workers’ rights.25  With the constant glorification of the People’s Liberation Army, the spreading notion that international society is defined by the inevitable struggle of nations for dominance and glory or submission and destruction, and the creation of pillar industries organized under a supreme leader for life supported by a cult of personality the likes of which has not been seen since Mao’s days, the CCP’s turn towards national socialism or fascism was complete even before China began setting up concentration camps for more than one million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.26 

Ideology and the debate over how to respond to China’s more assertive foreign policy

Leading US foreign policy thinkers have grappled with the role that ideas, ideals, values and ideology should play in shaping America’s place in the world for nearly seventy years. Classic statements by critics of the involvement of ideology in US foreign policy include work by George Kennan, William Appleman Williams, Henry Kissinger, and Michael Hunt.27  Their writings suggest that ideology is dangerous insofar as it leads to imperial overstretch and costly, unsupportable conflicts overseas, something they contrast with a more limited foreign policy centered on cold calculations of cost-benefit and “realism.” Contemporary proponents of this approach include Stephen Walt and John Mearshimer, who have argued that the US should largely abandon “liberal hegemony” and values-based arguments about international order in favor of a more straightforward competition with China based on material capabilities and the power of setting a good example of democracy domestically.28   

Critics of this approach argue that the United States can only win by standing for something more than its raw material capabilities and self-interested positions.  Steven Weber and Bruce Jentleson argue that the US must compete in the realm of ideas if it is to succeed in meeting the challenge posed by illiberal or authoritarian rivals such as China.29  Indeed, from liberal scholar-practitioners focused on Asia such as Kurt Campbell and John Ikenberry to more conservative former officials and scholars such as Mike Green and Aaron Friedberg, a broad consensus has emerged that competition with China requires a vision of the norms, values, and regional order for which the US stands.30  For its part, the Trump administration’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy recognizes and lays out a set of values and goals for the region focused on good governance, transparency, openness, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.31  

Yet in addition to offering up values that the United States stands for and seeks to promote, many experts have argued it is also necessary to strive to undermine the CCP’s unfounded historical claims, propaganda lines, and key policy initiatives.  Japanese specialist Fukuda Junichi has argued that in order to deter China from undertaking gray zone coercion against Japan, it may be necessary to wage a form of information warfare back against the legitimacy of the CCP and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government as a form of a long-term cost-imposing strategy.32  Similarly, Aaron Friedberg has warned that the United States cannot win a great power competition with China without competing on values and ideology.33   

What would competing with China more actively in the ways Fukuda and Friedberg suggest look like?  Several of the weak claims China has attempted to get the international community to accept as truth would seem to be prime candidates.  For example, Chinese propaganda speaks in terms of the country having 5,000 years of unbroken history, whereas during long swaths of just the past 1,500 years China was a colonized part of broader empires led by Mongols, Manchus and others.  This is a point made by the New Qing History movement that Beijing regards as a dangerous and ideologically subversive scholarly trend that undercuts its propaganda effort to nationalize and homogenize the history of peoples living inside the boundaries of today’s PRC and inscribe those boundaries backwards in time.

In fact, for the period from 1644 to 1911, China was a colonized part of the Great Manchu Qing Empire, something that Han nationalists rallied against in seeking to overthrow the Empress Dowager and establish an independent state free from foreign domination.  Despite the fact that China was a colony of the Manchus for almost three hundred years, PRC propaganda has focused on the arrival of Western and Japanese influences and created a narrative around a “Century of Humiliation” from 1840 to 1949, ended only by the conquest of political power by the Communists. Chinese propaganda also greatly exaggerates the contributions of the CCP to winning World War II, where Red Army forces played no substantial role in confronting the Japanese Imperial Army, yet are presented as the defenders of the Chinese people.  CCP propaganda also whitewashes the atrocities that the CCP carried out during its seizure of political power, such as the siege of Changchun where 150,000 or more civilians were deliberately starved to death by Mao Zedong and his lieutenants in order to bring the city to its knees.  Ideological competition could also include supporting challenges to the way China presents the history of the CCP’s seizure of power, refusing to use language about “revolution” (革命), which carries a somewhat positive, progressive connotation.

The US could also challenge China’s claims that the estimated 30-45 million famine deaths caused by Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party during the Great Leap Famine were caused by bad weather instead of policy choices.  As the 2012 publication of Yang Jisheng’s masterpiece, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 showed, the Party is still extremely sensitive to revelations about its past.34  The CCP exhibits similar concern to cover up the history of its other atrocities, foremost among these the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, which remains a leading regime concern as the oral history project of Rowena He,35 Louisa Chiang’s study People’s Republic of Amnesia,36 Koonchung Chan’s only lightly fictionalized account of a month no one can remember, The Fat Years,37 and Ma Jian’s historical fiction Beijing Coma have all shown.38

This sort of ideological competition plays on areas of known Chinese Communist weakness, whereas the United States is far less destabilized by debates over its history, with the recent Me Toomovement challenging outing those who have engaged in sexual harassment and in so doing shining a spotlight on the history of unfair and unequal treatment of women in American society. Similarly, the debate over Confederate statues, schools, and road names, and the growing call for a serious discussion of reparations to the descendants of slavery show American society’s dynamic ability to address past and present injustices in ways that are incompatible with the sanitized versions of history favored by the CCP in its propaganda presentations of self to the world.

For this reason, ideological competition with China could ultimately end up challenging the legitimacy of China’s claims that “Inner” Mongolia, Tibet, East Turkestan (Xinjiang), or Hong Kong—to say nothing of Taiwan—are, have been “from time immemorial” (自古以来), and always will be part of China’s inseparable territory.  Any US approach to challenge the legitimacy of China’s boundaries will, of course, be highly fraught and could conceivably run counter to the overall goal of encouraging the Chinese people to demand the transformation of the PRC into a democratic regime, since a traditional theme in PRC historiography talks about the intentions of foreign powers to “carve China up like a melon.”  Whether, and if so how, the United States or other countries might credibly communicate a set of attractive values to the Chinese people while at the same time criticizing China’s colonization of Tibet, Xinjiang, and other nations, could prove a major challenge for any effort to compete with China ideologically over the nation’s values, borders, and history.    

US values of course are centered on the consent of the governed, human rights, transparency and accountability, and sees these as enjoying privileged status over claims that some ahistorical and unchanging set of boundaries predating the advent of Westphalian sovereignty somehow always must exist.  Such challenges to Chinese sovereignty over large swaths of the territory currently controlled, claimed, or coveted by the PRC—including areas in the East and South China seas that Beijing is seeking to acquire—would certainly be highly charged.  Yet if China is truly, as the US NSS notes, a great power rival, or as the European Union has recently argued, a “systemic rival promoting alternative models of governance,” then the degree of confrontation between China and the liberal international order should not be underestimated or downplayed.39   <

Competing with China ideologically may also entail efforts to contest the legitimacy of the CCP’s claim to govern by challenging the legitimacy of the one-party system, while appealing to the Chinese people’s own demands that their government democratize. This would necessarily involve noting that Beijing’s claim that it governs “democratically” is false, as the eight small satellite parties that purportedly provide “oversight” and advice are in fact all penetrated by the CCP.40  It might involve noting that despite a six-plus year campaign against corruption by both “tigers” (high-ranking officials) and “flies” (low-ranking bureaucrats), the corruption of the Chinese system is a feature, not a bug, stemming from a political system that is not meritocratic but thoroughly opaque and prone to fostering corruption and factionalism.  Challenging China ideologically would also mean pushing back against the CCP and its supporters’ efforts to lay claim to legitimacy on the basis of having “lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.”  Other Asian nations enabled large percentages of their populations to climb out of poverty earlier because they were not held back by the Chinese Communist system.41 Even after opening and reform the CCP is more a retardant than an accelerant to Chinese growth, with the lack of a genuine legal system that can protect private property from theft acting to undercut Chinese innovation in many realms.  Indeed, China’s lack of the rule of law may be a more neutral and appealing narrative on which to focus when messaging the Chinese people themselves than human rights and freedom, which are more abstract, harder to relate to if never previously experienced personally, and somewhat tarnished by China’s campaign for decades to tar these as Western constructs inappropriate to China’s conditions.  By contrast, the CCP has only recognized in the last roughly seven years that it faces a risk if the Chinese people take the language of “ruling the country by law” (以法治国) to imply the rule “of” (rather than “by”) law. 

American values also demand that the US, if it is to represent a clear alternative to China in ideals, continue to voice and indeed increase its condemnation of China’s ethnic cleansing and mass incarceration of Uighurs in concentration camps in its far West.  Nearly twenty years ago, China sought to tie its own efforts to deepen control over Xinjiang to the US Global War on Terrorism, blurring distinctions and seeking to insulate itself from US criticism and even elicit US cooperation in policing its Uighur Muslim population.  Yet the US government appears to recognize and reject such efforts to elide the clear distinctions between the two countries’ situations and terror threats.

Chinese government claims about each country’s right to choose its own development path as well as efforts to establish norms about “internet sovereignty” are another area the US has been and is likely to continue pushing back against ideologically.  Indeed, this issue is likely to take on increased importance as Chinese efforts to export 5G technology via Huawei and ZTE unfold.  The question of which nation’s information technology will shape the era of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data brings the matter well outside of China’s own borders and highlights the degree to which China’s domestic politics will ultimately pose risks to American freedom and security, especially when paired with China’s growing interest in “sharp power.”42  Condemning and confronting China’s efforts to infiltrate the global ethnic Chinese community and entice or coerce them into working as extensions of PRC foreign policy is another example of how ideological competition with China is likely to unfold. 

Existing, increasingly successful efforts to stigmatize and reject the negative aspects of China’s Confucius Institutes, and more recently to do the same to the Belt and Road Initiative, exemplify how such an ideological competition with China is likely to unfold.  Confucius institutes have come under criticism from those questioning whether or not it is appropriate to have an arm of a foreign communist party operating under the guise of an educational program on US university and college campuses that receive state funding.43  Such calls to get Confucius institutions off US campuses are likely to grow even louder with the US blocking visas for some Chinese scholars it accuses of having undertaken activities on behalf of Chinese intelligence agencies.44  Similarly, US officials have increasingly settled in recent months on the narrative that the Belt and Road Initiative is all about “debt trap diplomacy.”  That label appears to be taking on a growing authenticity and is having an impact as countries around the world reconsider Chinese loans and development projects, from Laos to Malaysia and from Pakistan to the South Pacific, where political leaders are increasingly cautious about being seen as trading away national sovereignty to China in exchange for questionable promises about development.


As China’s growing power, ambitions, domestic repression and overseas aggression spur the defenders of the liberal international order to grow more active in defense of their interests and values, it appears likely that ideological competition will grow between the United States and China.  As John Ikenberry has pointed out, the confrontation is not one of the United States versus China, but rather China versus the liberal international order centered around the United States and its allies and partners.45  In meeting the China challenge, the United States will need to continue to articulate a compelling set of ideals and support norms and institutions, which embody beliefs and values that other nations find more appealing than China’s offer of low-cost technology and debt-financing.  This is not to say that the US can rely on ideology and ideals alone; you cannot beat something with nothing, nor offer hungry populations freedom from tyranny without also offering them pathways to development and security.  But neither can the United States rely solely on material capabilities absent values in defending US interests. While the struggle with China over national interests has been widely conceptualized, that over values centered on ideology also matters greatly and deserves to receive comparable attention.

1. The National Security Strategy of the United States 2017 (Washington, DC: The White House, 2017),

2. Robert Kagan, “The Strong Men Strike Back,” The Washington Post, March 14, 2019. 

3. “Winning” a great power competition will here be defined as a trend whereby the international community is increasingly shaped by the values, norms, institutions, and visions articulated by one side or another.  Insofar as human affairs are constantly evolving, the contest is unlikely to ever “end” or be “won” unless one side or the other converts its political system and stops seeking a vision of international affairs (and representing a domestic regime type) incommensurate with the interests and values of the other.  In the most ideal type of “win” for the United States, this would mean a situation where China fully transformed politically and joined the community of liberal democracies under the rule of law.  By contrast, it is unclear what the alternative “win” would look like for China, since the CCP does not appear to seek the transformation of the United States into a communist regime, merely aspiring to US withdrawal of support from regimes that China seeks to dominate or absorb and a retreat from US advocacy of values that threaten the CCP’s hold on power domestically.  The US, for its part, has often said it “welcomes the rise of China”, and has not conditioned this claim on only welcoming the rise of a “democratic” China; this might change if the US were to fully embrace ideological competition with the PRC.

4. Michael J. Mazarr, Timothy R. Heath, and Astrid Stuth Cevallos, China and the International Order (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 2018).

5. Andrew Scobell, Bonny Lin, Howard J. Shatz, Michael Johnson, Larry Hanauer, Michael S. Chase, Astrid Stuth Cevallos, Ivan W. Rasmussen, Arthur Chan, Aaron Strong, Eric Warner, and Logan Ma, At the Dawn of the Belt and Road: China in the Developing World (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 2018).

6. Christopher Beam, “How Communist Is China Anyway?” Slate, July 26, 2010; Panos Mourdoukoutas, “Time for the Chinese Communist Party to Drop ‘Communist’ from Its Name,” Forbes, October 17, 2017.

7. Mazarr, et. al., China and International Order, p. 14.

8. Kenneth Lieberthal and Wang Jisi, Addressing U.S. – China Strategic Distrust (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2012),

9. John J. Mearshimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2014); Graham Allison, Destined for War? Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? (New York, NY: Houghton-Mifflin and Co., 2017).

10. James Steinberg and Michael O’Hanlon, Strategic Reassurance and Resolve (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2014), pp. 6, 13; Lyle J. Goldstein, Meeting China Halfway: How to Defuse the Emerging U.S. – China Rivalry (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2015), p. 1.

11. Didi Kirsten Tatlow, “China’s Cosmological Communism: A Challenge to Liberal Democracies,” MERICS China Monitor, July 18, 2018,

12. Anne Marie Brady, “Magic Weapons: China’s Political Influence Activities under Xi Jinping,”

13. John Garnaut, “Engineers of the Soul: Ideology in Xi Jinping’s China,” Sinocism, January 16, 2019.

14. “The Hottest App in China Teaches Citizens about their Leader—And Yes, There’s a Test,” The New York Times, April 7, 2019.

15. “China Bulldozing Churches and Replacing Holy Imagery with Communist in Religious Crackdown,” Agence France-Presse, September 15, 2018; Nectar Gan, “Chinese Universities Tighten Ideological Control of Teaching Staff,” South China Morning Post, August 28, 2017; Adrian Wan, “Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is ‘Infiltrated by Foreign Forces’: Anti-Graft Official,” South China Morning Post, June 15, 2014.

16. Simon Denyer and Xu Jing, “In China, Hostile Foreign Forces Blamed for Bursting Stock Market,” The Washington Post, July 2, 2015; “China Warns of ‘Dangerous Love’ with Spies,” BBC, April 20, 2016; “China Launches Website to Report Foreign Spies,” France 24, April 16, 2018.

17. Mimi Lau, “Chinese City Offers US$1500 Reward to Help Snare Foreign Religious Leaders,” South China Morning Post, March 29, 2019.

18. Shannon Tiezzi, “At CICA, Xi Calls for New Security Architecture,” The Diplomat, May 22, 2014; Scott W. Harold, “Asia for the Asians?  A Foreign Policy Gloss with Little Appeal to Other Asians,” The American Foreign Policy Council Defense Technology Program Brief, No. 9 (February 2015).

19. Timothy R. Heath, “China Prepares for an International Order after U.S. Leadership,” Lawfare, August 1, 2018,

20. David Kelly, “The ‘China Solution’: Beijing Responds to Trump,” The Lowy Interpreter, February 17, 2017,

21. Paul Mozur, Jonah Kessel, and Melissa Chan, “Made in China, Exported to the World: The New Surveillance State,” The New York Times, April 24, 2019.

22. Peter Hayes Gries, China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2004); Wang Zheng, Never Forget National Humiliation: Historical Memory in Chinese Politics and Foreign Relations (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2012). 

23. Robert Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd Ed. (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1978); Milovan Đjilas, The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System (New York, NY: Praeger, 1958). 

24. Christopher Hughes, “Reclassifying Chinese Nationalism: The Geopolitik Turn,” Journal of Contemporary China, Vol. 20, No. 71 (2011), pp. 601-20; Zheping Huang, “Wolf Warrior: China’s Answer to Rambo is about Punishing those Who Offend China—And It’s Killing It in Theaters,” Quartz, August 8, 2017,

25. ”China Shutters Maoist ‘Utopia’ Website, Social Media Account,” RFA, May 21, 2018; Javier C. Hernandez, “China’s Leaders Confront an Unlikely Foe: Ardent Young Communists,” The New York Times, September 28, 2018; Ben Westcott and Yong Xiong, “Young Marxists Are Going Missing in China after Protesting for Workers,” CNN, November 14, 2018. 

26. Stephanie Nebehay, “UN Says It Has Credible Reports that China Holds Million Uighurs in Secret Camps,” Reuters, August 10, 2018.

27. George Kennan, American Diplomacy, 1900 – 1950 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2012); William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1959); Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1994); Michael Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy, 2nd Ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009). 

28. John J. Mearshimer and Stephen Walt, “The Case for Offshore Balancing,” Foreign Affairs, July/August 2016.

29. Steven Weber and Bruce W. Jentleson, The End of Arrogance: America in the Global Competition of Ideas (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

30. Kurt Campbell, The Pivot: The Future of American Statecraft in Asia (New York, NY: Twelve, 2016); G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011); Michael J. Green, By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia-Pacific since 1783 (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2017); Aaron Friedberg, A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2011). 

31. U.S. Department of State Office of the Spokesperson, “Fact Sheet: Advancing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region,” U.S. Department of State website, November 18, 2018.

32. See Junichi Fukuda, “A Japanese Perspective on the Role of the U.S. – Japan Alliance in Deterring, or If Necessary Defeating, Maritime Gray Zone Coercion,” in Scott W. Harold, ed., The U.S. – Japan Alliance and Deterring Gray Zone Coercion in the Maritime, Cyber, and Space Domains (Santa Monica, CA: The RAND Corporation, 2017), esp. pp. 37-38.  As Fukuda notes, this is a potentially highly escalatory approach that would need to be considered carefully before being adopted as it would likely entail substantial Chinese pushback.

33. Aaron Friedberg, “Competing with China,” Survival, Vol. 60, No. 3 (2018), pp. 7-64.

34. Yang Jisheng (with Ed Friedman, ed.), Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 (New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Giraux, 2012).

35. Rowena Xiaoqing He (with Perry Link), Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China (New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014).

36. Louisa Chiang, People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014). 

37. Koonchung Chan, The Fat Years (New York, NY: Nan Talese, 2012).

38. Ma Jian, Beijing Coma: A Novel (New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Giraux, 2008). 

39. European Commission, EU-China: A Strategic Outlook (Brussels, Belgium: March 2019).

40. James D. Seymour, China’s Satellite Parties (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1987).  

41. Rob Schmitz, “Who’s Lifting Chinese People Out of Poverty?”, January 17, 2017,

42. “In contrast to hard power tools such as economic or military levers of statecraft, and soft power tools such as values-based appeals and attractive cultural attributes, sharp power is defined as the use of information to shape or disrupt an adversary’s political system, public unity, and access to credible information; it is often associated with authoritarian uses of information warfare and subversion.” See Christopher Walker, “What is ‘Sharp Power?’” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 29, No. 3 (2018), pp. 9-23.

43. Elizabeth Redden, “Closing Confucius Institutes,” Inside Higher Ed, January 9, 2019.

44. Jane Perlez, “FBI Bars Some China Scholars from Visiting U.S. Over Spying Fears,” The New York Times, April 14, 2019.

45. G. John Ikenberry, “The Rise of China and the Future of the West,” Foreign Affairs, January/February 2008.