- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Rising China: The Search for Power and Plenty

Michael R. Chambers


This chapter analyzes the growth of China's trade and economic interdependence with both its Asian neighbors and the United States and assesses the impact these developments will have on China's security and the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

Main Argument

China currently is engaged in a process of strategic economic development that will enhance the People's Republic of China's (PRC) comprehensive national power. The purpose of this development is to enhance national wealth, creating a reasonably prosperous China by 2020 and providing the economic basis for China's emergence as a regional and global great power. Toward these ends, China has sought to develop webs of economic interdependence with its regional neighbors. These connections are both supporting the PRC's economic development and linking these neighbors to China in friendly and cooperative relations. China is also exhibiting restraint and greater cooperation with its neighbors - behavior explained by economic interdependence as well as Beijing's own foreign policy strategy.

Policy Implications

  • The webs of interdependence, coupled with Beijing's desire for regional peace and stability, likely will constrain militaristic adventurism by the Chinese around their periphery over the next five to ten years.
  • Given the growth of economic interdependence between China and its Asia-Pacific neighbors, several of these countries would be reluctant to jeopardize the benefits of trade with the PRC in the event of Sino-U.S. conflict over Taiwan. This reluctance will complicate U.S. military operations in the event of such conflict.
  • The U.S. and the international community should continue to encourage China's active participation in the global economy and multilateral international institutions. Once China's rise to great power status is achieved, China's interests may change from basic acceptance of the international status quo to more revisionist goals. Engagement and socialization today are the best hedge against a future revisionist China.