Inside China's Grand Strategy: The Perspective from the People's Republic

By Ye Zicheng; Steven I. Levine et al. | Go to book overview

1
China’s Development
as a World Power:
Objective Conditions, Strategic
Opportunity, and Strategic Choices

Following the revival of China, four kinds of objections have been raised to the idea of its becoming a world power.

The elephant mentality. According to this viewpoint, it is unrealistic to believe that China can achieve its objective of becoming a world power. “It is impossible for China to catch up with the West, not to mention surpassing it, in the twenty-first century. There is no way to tell whether it will even be able to do so in the twenty-second century. Thus, we ought to jettison the unrealistic objective of overtaking the West.” Internationally, China should not pick fights with the world, and it should not try to become a superpower on a par with the United States. There is no need for it to seek to become a “tiger” like the United States; indeed, since it lacks the capability, this is impossible. Nor should it join the company of the “wolves,” namely, Russia, Japan, and India. Of course, China cannot act like a sheep that others devour. It should be like a gentle elephant that stands apart from the tigers, wolves, and sheep, having no conflict with them, and not contending with them for food.1

The theory of natural growth. This view is that it does not matter whether China wants to develop into a world power. The crucial point is that it needs to develop; its status as a world power will follow naturally. It should not struggle to achieve the status of a world power. When it devel-

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