ASSESSING THE NEW U.S. MARITIME STRATEGY: A Window into Chinese Thinking

By Erickson, Andrew S. | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

ASSESSING THE NEW U.S. MARITIME STRATEGY: A Window into Chinese Thinking


Erickson, Andrew S., Naval War College Review


(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

The new U.S. maritime strategy embodies a historic reassessment of the international system and how the nation can best pursue its interests in harmony with those of other states. In light of the strategy's focus on building partnerships to better safeguard the global maritime commons, it is vital that American leaders clearly understand the frank and unvarnished views of allies, friends, and potential partners. The strategy's unveiling at the Naval War College on 17 October 2007 with the leaders of nearly a hundred navies and coast guards present demonstrated initial global maritime inclusiveness. The new maritime strategy is generating responses from numerous states. As U.S. leaders work to implement global maritime partnerships in the years ahead, they must carefully study the reactions of the nations and maritime forces with which they hope to work.

Chinese responses warrant especially close consideration. China is a key global stakeholder with which the United States shares many common maritime interests. Beijing has not made any official public statements on the maritime strategy thus far. Yet Chinese opinions on this matter are clearly important, even if they suggest that in some areas the two nations must "agree to disagree." Chinese reactions to the maritime strategy provide a window into a larger strategic dynamic-not just in East Asia, where China is already developing as a great power, but globally, where it has the potential to play a major role as well. How the United States can maintain its existing status and role while China continues to rise-as the world's greatest developed and developing powers attempt to reach an understanding that might be termed "competitive coexistence"-will be perhaps the critical question in international relations for the twenty-first century1 To that end, this study analyzes three of the most significant unofficial Chinese assessments of the maritime strategy publicly available to date and offers annotated full-length translations (which follow, in the form of essays) so that a foreign audience can survey the documents themselves.2

A PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL COMPLEX

The People's Republic of China (PRC) has a long tradition of informing its policy elites on international affairs through the widespread translation of foreign news and documents.

Under Mao Zedong's leadership (1949-76), official discourse was dominated by "doctrinalism."3 Revolutionary leaders dedicated to "antagonistic contradictions and struggle" used ambiguous ideological statements to mobilize political factions and launch personal attacks against their rivals. By the late 1970s, however, Deng Xiaoping had shifted the national emphasis to economic and science and technology development, called for pragmatic debate of policy issues and solutions, and thereby opened the way for market forces and more widespread circulation of information.4

These factors have allowed a "public intellectual complex" to emerge under Deng's successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Members of this community of strategic scholars and policy makers at a wide variety of private and public institutions engage in increasingly vigorous debates, publish widely in specialized and popular journals, make media appearances, and on occasion brief policy makers and even China's senior leadership. Some intellectuals are privy to internal deliberations, and a few play a major role in shaping policy, particularly in specialized subject areas. Even when Chinese public intellectuals are not directly involved in the policy process, their views often matter. Their ideas may inform policy makers indirectly and even be adopted as policy. They may also play a role in justifying or socializing alreadyestablished policies.5 When politics or bureaucratic maneuvering comes to the fore, public intellectuals may become caught up in a larger competition of ideas. For all these reasons, their writings are worth examining for possible insights into Chinese policy debates and even, possibly, government decision making. …

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