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By Michael D. Swaine

RAND Asian specialists Swaine and Tellis have selected essentially the most major, arguable, and well timed topics, breaking new floor conceptually in addition to analytically.

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Extra resources for Interpreting China's Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future

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Map 3 shows the approximate extent of China’s historical periphery. Throughout most of Chinese history, the pacification or control of this periphery was usually regarded as essential to prevent attacks on the heartland and, during various periods of the imperial era, to secure Chinese dominance over significant nearby inland (and, to a much lesser extent, maritime) trade routes. The establishment of Chinese control or influence over the periphery, whether actual (as in the form of military dominance or various specific types of lucrative economic and political arrangements) or largely symbolic (as reflected in the more ritualistic aspects of China’s tributary relations with periphery “vassal” states and kingdoms), was also considered extremely important during most of the imperial era as a means of affirming the hierarchical, sinocentric, Confucian international order.

That is, they have stressed the need for China to attain equality with, and not necessarily superiority over, other major powers. At the same time, the notion that China should in some sense enjoy a preeminent place among neighboring Asian states remains relatively strong among both elites and ordinary Chinese citizens. This is true even though the form and basis of Chinese preeminence in the modern era have changed significantly. In particular, the loss of China’s cultural preeminence and economic self-sufficiency and the emergence of powerful industrialized nation-states along its borders have resulted in a stronger emphasis on the attainment of great 16 Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy: Past, Present, and Future power status through external economic/technological influence and military might.

401). Also see Hucker (1975), pp. 61–62. 8Barfield (1989). The Historical Context 29 nate their lands. 11 In fact, non-Chinese ruled all or part of the Chinese empire for considerably more than one-half of the period between 1000 and 1911. 12 The threat posed by nomadic warriors was largely due to their superior warfighting capabilities and high mobility. Expert horsemen skilled in the use of the bow and sword, they could quickly concentrate overwhelming forces at a single point and thus overwhelm China’s usually static defenses.

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