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

Foreign policy debates in Russia, India and China

How do the domestic policy debates within rising powers such as Russia, India and China help us understand current political developments and foreign policy behaviors of these countries?

As part of an ongoing outreach to the policy and media communities, the Rising Powers Initiative held a briefing on March 2 to present expert analysis of domestic debates and recent policy developments in Russia, India and China. The event took place at the Elliot School of International Affairs, and was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation.

To understand the foreign policy behaviors of major countries in Asia and Eurasia, the main approach of the Rising Powers Initiative has been to focus on the domestic debates taking place within these countries. These debates reflect a certain intellectual orientation in a country, or its “intellectual DNA,” which is then reflected in that country’s foreign policy, explained Henry R. Nau, who moderated the panel as co-director of the Rising Powers Initiative and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at The George Washington University.

Moreover, domestic debates matter most when the external geopolitical environment is relatively stable, said Nau. For the past twenty years, international relations have been characterized by the unipolarity of the United States, and any shift in the international order is gradual. This brings into focus the domestic interpretations of such shifts, and how those interpretations shape the overall direction of a country’s foreign policy.

In Russia, the predominant intellectual orientation has seen a “a lot of volatility” in the past twenty years, said Andrew Kuchins, Director and Senior Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Beginning with the short-lived “Liberal Westernizers” of 1991-92, Russia’s political landscape then shifted to “Great Power Balancers / Realists” in the 1990s and early 2000s, who were disappointed in the West and believed in a more balanced, multi-vector foreign policy. Read more of this post

Back to the Future? A Revival of Realpolitik in Asia and Eurasia

By Nikola Mirilovic

In each of three key Asian and Eurasian powers, China, India, and Russia, a realpolitik approach plays a larger role in the foreign policy outlook today than it did in the period following the end of the Cold War.

China, India, and Russia all possess the key traditional attribute of great powers: size. All three countries are among the largest in the world in both territory and population. While size is a necessary prerequisite of great power status, it is not a sufficient one. Size creates potential which political capacity and economic efficiency can activate. Over the past decade (and longer in the case of China), all three countries have tended to benefit from a remarkable economic dynamism. This dynamism was due in large part to economic liberalization in the case of China and India, and to high global energy prices in the case of energy-rich Russia. Assuming these trends continue, all three of these states are likely to play an important role in shaping the future of Eurasia. It is of great importance to understand their foreign policy outlook, and the nature of the balance between realist and idealist thinking within that outlook. Read more of this post

Exploring India’s Foreign Policy Debates

By Nikola Mirilovic

Among the most contested questions in Indian foreign policy today are those related to the extent and type of power that India should use to project itself internationally. Should India rely on military, economic or ideational power? How should Indian policymakers make trade-offs between military, economic and normative objectives? What mechanisms does India prefer for global leadership?

Deepa Ollapally and Rajesh Rajagopalan of the Rising Powers Initiative have classified India’s domestic debates about the country’s foreign policy into three main schools of thought: hyper-power, national-power and liberal power proponents.

The hyper-power proponents view military power as not only a means to an end, but as an end in and of itself. They claim that extensive military power is a necessary component of India’s greatness. This is a minority perspective. National-power proponents also advocate greater military strength and expenditures, but they view them as means of achieving other goals. Finally, the proponents of the liberal power perspective argue that hard power is not an effective means of projecting India’s influence abroad, and that trade and diplomacy should be relied on instead. Read more of this post

Policy Briefing – Worldviews of China, India and Russia: Power Shifts and Domestic Debates

Yesterday the Sigur Center hosted a policy briefing on “Worldviews of China, India and Russia: Power Shifts and Domestic Debates,” drawing an audience of over 200 academics, journalists, and policymakers.  The event was moderated by Henry R. Nau, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, and featured the following experts: Andrew Kuchins, Director and Senior Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Deepa Ollapally, Associate Director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, and David Shambaugh, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University. Read more about the event in the GW Today.

NEW: Watch the video of the event here.

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