Schools of thought in China’s foreign policymaking – How should the US respond?

China is a conflicted rising power with an increasingly pluralized foreign policymaking process, characterized by multiple viewpoints across different actors and institutions. What then are the implications for US foreign policy toward China? This question was addressed by a panel of China experts at a symposium on “Worldview of Rising Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates,” held on April 25th at George Washington University.

David Shambaugh, Professor of Political Science at GWU, outlined seven schools of thought in China’s foreign policy discourse and recommended corresponding U.S. policy responses:

  • Nativists are populists and nationalists who distrust the outside world and fiercely criticize the West. The US should be aware of them, but not overstate their influence. They can be ignored.
  • Realists place a premium on building up a strong state that can navigate its own way in the world and resist outside pressures. In short, they want to strengthen China and challenge the United States. For the US, strategic hedging would be the response to this semi-revisionist tendency in China.
  • Major Powers proponents are those who advocate a focus on relations with the world’s major powers and blocs. In other words, they are interested in working with the US, which complements an engagement approach in US foreign policy.
  • Asia First proponents, as the name implies, have a regional focus. They seek to compete with the US and undermine American influence in Asia. In response, the US should maintain its presence, alliances, diplomatic partnerships and soft power in Asia. Read more of this post
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Obama’s India visit: Beyond strategic symbolism

By Deepa M. Ollapally

Before India’s political pundits write off President Obama’s visit as nothing more than symbolic, they would do well to consider US- India relations under the Obama administration in its entirety. But in order to do that, they need to first shed their single minded focus on strategic affairs.

There is growing apprehension in India (and among some US analysts) that Indo-US relations have reached a plateau, and that no big strategic breakthroughs are on the horizon. First of all, it is unrealistic to expect strategic transformations at every summit.

Obama’s two predecessors were able to make history after the end of the Cold War by changing the course of US-India relations from one of decades-old disaffection to solid cooperation. Obama has inherited an excellent foundation for relations between the two countries, and there is little question that the US president has embraced India. Read more of this post

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