National Strategy

On Thursday, the National People's Congress convened in Beijing in what has become a familiar annual ritual. Some 3,000 “elected” delegates from all over the country—ranging from colorfully clad ethnic minorities to urbane billionaires—will meet for a week to discuss the state of the nation and to engage in the pretense of political participation. Some see this impressive gathering as a sign of the strength of the Chinese political system—but it masks serious weaknesses. Chinese politics has always had a theatrical veneer, with staged events like the congress intended to project the power and stability of the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP. Officials and citizens alike know that they are supposed to conform to these rituals, participating cheerfully and parroting back official slogans. This behavior is known in Chinese as biaotai, “declaring where one stands,” but it is little more than an act of symbolic compliance.

Rumors of the CCP’s impending demise may well be exaggerated.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, the disintegration of Iraq’s and Syria’s borders, and increasing Chinese assertiveness in the South and East China Seas, the post-Cold War era appears to have ended in 2014. Is that true? The post-Cold War era was not really an “era,” but rather a gradual transition from a bilateral Cold War to a more complex international order that still involves, in the final analysis, two world powers. In brief, the decisive axis of the new order increasingly involves the United States and the People’s Republic of China. The Sino-American competition involves two significant realities that distinguish it from the Cold War: neither party is excessively ideological in its orientation; and both parties recognize that they really need mutual accommodation.

From the air, the Spratly Islands, a cluster of miniature rocks and sandbars 425,000 kilometres square in the middle of the South China Sea, are almost imperceptible. Even up close, the Spratlys do not look like much – a few islands have tiny rocky beaches or occasional makeshift buildings. A tiny contingent of Filipino marines camps on a rusty hulk of an American ship from the Second World War grounded in the Spratlys.

According to the International Monetary Fund, early in December 2014 China’s economy surpassed that of the United States, which had led the world since the late nineteenth century. Meanwhile, the United States experienced large trade deficits and an eroding industrial base. To respond, the United States must promote fair international trade rules and embrace domestic policies for public and private growth.

Given China's tightening restrictions on film, TV, art, writing, and journalism, and the reverberations from President Xi Jinping's recent speech on culture, we asked contributors why they think Beijing has decided to ramp up its involvement in the business of culture, what this increased meddling may mean, and what its results are likely to be.

Speaking fluent Chinese, Richard Bush believes the two countries should expand areas of cooperation. "Because you expand the areas of cooperation, you build mutual trust and you can have mutual confidence in each other," he said. "If you always fight about difficult issues, you'll never have a firm foundation," he said. Bush pointed out that the two countries have done quite a good job in cooperating on North Korea, Iran and climate change. Now director of Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings, Bush focuses not only on the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, but also Korea and Japan, including China-Japan ties.

The growing ties between China and the Republic of Korea are among the most consequential changes in East Asian politics, economics, and security of the past several decades. From modest beginnings in 1992 when Beijing formally accepted the reality of two Koreas rather than one, China and the ROK have built an increasingly diversified and interactive relationship, now described by both leaderships as pursuit of "a matured strategic cooperative partnership." By numerous measures –meetings between senior officials, trade and investment, social, cultural, and educational exchanges, and high levels of public support in both countries—relations have progressed to levels unimaginable only a few years ago. The personal connection between President Xi Jinping and President Park Geun-hye evident during their state visits to each other's capitals in 2013 and 2014 further attests to this forward momentum.

Nixon's visit to China and the U.S.-China rapprochement was historically important in the context of the Cold War. It marginalized the Soviet Union, dramatically changed the global political and strategic landscape, and one could argue that it was not Ronald Reagan that ended the Cold War but rather Nixon and Henry Kissinger's visit to China. Since rapprochement and the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between China and the United States in 1979, there have been some important changes such as China's emergence as a major power and the second largest economy in the world.

The Obama administration has characterized its policy toward the Asia-Pacific region as one of "rebalancing," by which it means assigning higher priority and political, economic, and security resources to the region because of its dynamism and opportunities for the U.S. The fundamental elements of the rebalancing have included