China’s Grand Strategy and influence of Sun Tzu’s theory


This article has been developed to test the feasibility of using Sun Tzu’s thoughts to analyze and predict China’s Contemporary and future Strategic thoughts. I systematically introduce Sun Tzu and his remarkable military thoughts presented in ‘The Art of War’, why China is searching for its security in every aspect, ensuring its security what are the key strategies of contemporary china that influenced and based on Sun Tzu’s teachings and China’s grand strategy with a conclusion whether we consider China as a threat for prevailing world order or not.




Even In 1997, China was a vulnerable Country, whose foreign policy was mainly defensive and aimed at preventing domestic instability, reconstructing the relations with its powerful neighbors such as Japan, Russia and India. It had no major interests and influence beyond its immediate periphery and was not an influential actor in Europe, North and South America, Africa or the Middle East. China at that time was a regional power but not a great power that it is today.Great power is a vague term, but China deserves it by any measure, the extent and strategic location of its territory, the size and dynamic of its population, the value and growth rate of its economy, its massive share of global trade, the size and sophistication of its military, the reach of its diplomatic interests and its level of Cultural influence. It has become one of a small number of Countries that have significant national interests in every part of the world, whose voice must be heard in the solution of every global problem. It is the only Country widely seen as a possible threat to U.S predominance. [1]

Today, Chinese policy makers continue to be more concerned with defending their territory than with expanding it. China maintains a near seas navy, strong border troops, nationwide antiaircraft capabilities and nuclear determent. In a book named ‘The Great wall and the Empty Fortress’ the writers portrayed China’s characteristics of defense as The Great Wall’which is a symbol of mixed weakness and strength.[2] In a famous chapter of the book “Romance of the three kingdoms” (Chapter 95), a story about second and third Century civil wars the Strategist ‘Zhuge Liang’ is outnumbered in the defense of a walled City. He lowers the unmilitary banners and orders his troops to hide, opens the gates and sunbathes on the ramparts in view of the emery army. Seeing him so unconcerned, the enemy concluded that the city must be well defended and that Zhuge is trying to put them into an ambush. So, they decamp without attacking. This ancient story Symbolizes China’s Strategists ability to magnify limited resources, appear stronger than they are and deter enemies from attack or sub version while biding their time and build up power. Even today that Symbolism is real. Of course china’s power is real but the foreigners evaluate the Country even more. For example,

The U.S has a vastly larger economy and stronger military, Japan has a better financed and more technologically advanced military. India with a similar size of population advantageous geostrategic position and better equipped navy, European Union has a larger GDP and advanced technology, Russia has a huge geography and vast military power, but why except the U.S China generate more respect and fear than the other powers mentioned?

One reason is China’s Sensitive geo-strategic position between Eurasia and the pacific with a decisive role in six complex and important regional sub system such as, Northeast Asia, Continental South East Asia, maritime South East Asia, Oceania, South Asia and Central Asia.[3] Another reason is however the ability of China’s foreign policy leadership to Control information and perception sufficiently to Create a mystique of strength. In our later writings we will find out China’s Strategic Cultures and thoughts using Sun Tzu’s monumental creation ‘The Art of War’.




Who is Sun Tzu?

Sun Tzu (also Known as ‘Sun Zi’ in Chinese) was a Chinese general and military strategist who lived nearly 2500 years ago during the ‘Spring and Autumn’period ( also known Agriculture period) of ancient china[4]. Though Sun Tzu’s history is quite uncertain and some scholars accepting  his historicity in the later warring states period[5] Sun Tzu is traditionally Credited as the author of “The Art of war” a very popular and influential work of military Strategy. As the Author of the Art of war” Sun Tzu placed in Chinese and ‘East Asian Culture’ and presently in the western culture as a legendary historical and military figure.

The Art of War :

The Art of War, Written by Sun Tzu more than two thousand and five hundred Years ago, enjoys the Similar popularity in military theory to Clausewitz’s “On War” and Miyamoto Mushashi’s “Book of five Rings”. According to the “History of the Han Dynasty” The art of war originally consisted of eighty two chapters[6]. but only thirteen chapters remain. In the biography of Sun Tzu, , ‘Ho Lu’(the king of Wu) said to Sun Tzu, “I have read your thirteen chapters Sir, in their entirely.”[7].This statement also proves that there were only thirteen chapters at that time. And sun Tzu’s art of war is the most famous between the Seven military classics of ancient china written over several centuries.[8] These seven classics are:

  1. Tai Gong’s six secret Teachings
  2. The methods of the Sima
  3. Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of war’
  4. Wu Zi
  5. Wei Liao Zi
  6. There Strategies of Huang Shi Gong
  7. Questions and replies Between Tang Tai Zong and Li Wei Gong.

The Art of war constitutes a strong cultural pillar for the Chinese people that is almost similar to the Pursuit of democracy and independence of American cultural heritage that is rooted in its people. At the age of Seventeen years, before they enter a University, young people in china are required to attend military training and classes in military training are also based on ‘The Art of War’ taught by the military officers. So Chinese people who may never read The Art of War are significantly influenced by Sun Tzu and his thirteen chapters. The thirteen chapters of that book discussed various vital aspects of war where each chapter based on a single principle followed by the describing application of that principle.

For example, chapter one refers to Estimates[9] (The title means ‘reckoning’, ‘Plans’ or ‘Calculations’. In the Seven Military classics edition the title is ‘Preliminary calculations’). This chapter describes the definition and calculations of war, including the great five factors (moral influence, weather, terrain, command, doctrine) determining a war’s outcome and the importance that forms a basic foundation for victory in a war. But the question remains whether china influenced by Sun Tzu?

Why sun Tzu?

Former President and Chairman ‘Mao Tse-Tung’ has been strongly influenced by Sun Tzu’s thought. During the long march period between 1930-34 possibly with the experience in mind Chairman Mao later wrote:

“We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Tzu, the great military expert of ancient china, know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster”[10]

Deception and surprise are two key principles to Sun Tzu. Influenced by Sun Tzu ‘Mao Tse-Tung’ has said that war demands deception. The enemy’s leaders must be confused if possible driven insane.[11]

Europe first discovered sun Tzu during the late 18th century. After WWI “Wilhelm II” the Emperor of Germany stated, “I wish I could have read sun Tzu before world war I.” General Douglas MacArthur once stated that“he always kept Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” on his desk. At the End of the cold war, the United States borrowed from Sun Tzu when it created ‘competitive strategy’ which aimed to attack the Soviet weaknesses with the American strength.[12]

This is exactly Sun Tzu’s meaning when he said ‘An army avoids strength and strikes  weakness.’[13] Several examples that were previously given will help us to Understand the influence of sun Tzu and his monumental work ‘The Art of War’ in the contemporary world . Let’s focus on China, Sun Tzu is in the counterpiece of the curriculum of the people’s liberation army (PLA) National Defense University (PLANDU), the highest Educational institute for the Chinese Military.[14] Not only this, According to this Chinese information bureau in 2006, the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) decided to use ‘The Art of War’ as the educational textbook not only for officers but also for all enlisted soldier and sailors[15]. An American Scholar pointed out that the Chinese concept of cyber-attack is based on sun Tzu’s phrase “Use the normal force to engage, use the extraordinary to win.”[16]

Since all Chinese Military personal seem to memories Sun Tzu, it is possible that Chinese strategy mostly based on The Art of War. Though PLA weapons and tactics are not as sophisticated as those of the major western powers, we will understand the core reasons behind China’s search for Security and then china’s comprehensive strategy including several non-military means. Finally we must understand how china has adopted sun Tzu for Its Contemporary Strategy.


China’s Search for Security

Vulnerability to threats is the main driver to China’s Search for Security as well as their Strategic Policy and Foreign Policy also. These threats can be described in four Concentric Circles.[17]


First Ring,

Across their own territory that China administers or claims. The Chinese government believes that domestic political stability is placed at risk by the impact of foreign actors and forces. Foreign investors, managers, development advisers, customs and health inspectors, tourists, students and intellectuals swarm the Country all with their own ideas for how China should Change. The territory also include maritime boundaries. These include islands and adjacent waters in the East China and South China Seas. Most significant Island is Taiwan (ROC or Republic of China) which has its own government and military force, and diplomatic recognition from Twenty states, strong defense ties with the U.S and economic relations with Japan. To the West, Tibet and Xinjiang receive moral and diplomatic support from sympathetic governments abroad. It’s true that no Country is free from external influence’s but among them China is the most perpetrated of the big Countries.

Second Ring,

The Second Ring involves China’s relation with Twenty immediately adjacent Countries from Japan in the East to Vietnam to India in the Southwest to Russia in the North. No other Country in the world except Russia has as many Contiguous neighbors. Moreover, China’s neighborhood is so complex, including 7 of the 15 largest Countries in the world (Russia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam), five Countries with which China has been at war at some point in the past Seventy years (Russia, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and India) at least Eight Countries with Unstable regimes (North Korea, Philippines, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).[18] China has had border disputes since 1949 with every one of its twenty immediate neighbors, though most have been settle by now. Every one of these Second Rig neighbors is a Cultural Stranger to China. All the large neighbors have some historical rivalry with of Chinese influence.[19] And of-course the largest single Challenge to China’s security is the U.S. though the U.S is located thousands of miles away, it has a mighty presence in China’s neighborhood, with its pacific Command headquarter in “Honolulu”, its huge military base on the pacific island of “Guam” and its military presence in South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.

And all of this Combined make China’s immediate periphery to be the most Challenging geopolitical environment in the world.

Third Ring:

The third ring of Chinese Security Concerns consisting of the politics of six nearby multistate regional systems, each Consisting of a set of states where interests are inter connected. The six systems are:

  1. Northeast Asia (Russia, North and South Korea, Japan, China and the U.S)
  2. Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Twelve pacific islands, China and the U.S)
  3. Continental South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, China and the U.S)
  4. Maritime South East Asia (Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brune, Philippines, China and the U.S)
  5. South Asia (Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, Maldives China and the U.S)
  6. Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Russia, China and the U.S)[20]

The Total number of states in the six systems is forty five and China is the only country in the world that has such a large number of regional systems, according to its geography not by choice.

Beijing’s policies toward North Korea affect the interest of South Korea, Japan and the U.S. Its policies towards Cambodia affect the interests of Vietnam and Thailand. Its policies towards Burma affect India, Bangladesh, the Asian member states and also the U.S. It’s policies towards Pakistan affect the interest of India and Afghanistan. So, China can rarely make policy with only one state in mind.

Fourth Ring:

There still remains three quarter of the globe’s surface. And that rest of the world including eastern and Western Europe, Middle East, Africa, North and South America belongs to the fourth ring of chines security.[21] China has entered this farthest circle in a big way only since the late 1990’s and not in pursuit of general power and influencebut for; energy resources, markets, investment opportunities, diplomatic support for it’s position on Tibet and Taiwan, and for support for its positions on Multilateral diplomatic issues like international trade, human rights environment and arms control. Chinas policy to gain in fluency in this forth ring only by soft power. No doubt, china has arrived in the fourth ring as a dramatically new presence but not in the role of what we would call a global power at least not yet.

Demography of China:

Why China’s situation is so problematic? The situation begins with its demography. China has the largest population in the world which contains 1.4 billion people[22] and three quarters of the population is concentrated on about one quarter of the territory. As China enforced a policy of one child in the late 1970’s there are now more aged people than young people in population Distribution. This burden will bold back economic growth and may create a shortage of military manpower. As this happens India will overtake china and will enjoy the economic benefit of more workers and a lower ratio of dependents. Because of one child policy China produced an imbalanced sex ratio because of aborted fetuses. For that China is expected to have 30-40 million surplus male and that will perhaps create social instability. Not only this, china’s ethnic proportions are also important. 92% of ‘Han’[23] ethnic population may make china a homogenous country.[24] But it’s other recognized 55 minorities specially the  ‘Tibetans’ in the ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’, and ‘Uyghur’s in the ‘Xinjiang province’ made china concerned about its population. The Picture given below will help to understand China’s Ethno linguistic groups:[25]

These populations have weak commitments to the Chinese state and active cross border ties with ethnic kin in neighboring countries. Beijing may gives what it calls ‘Autonomy’ but these regions are controlled by ethnically Chinese (Han) and military garrisons. And this demographic picture has crucial importance for china’s security.



Economy of China:

China was a self-reliant country since its history and it made a strategic turn from self-sufficiency to globalization in the 1980’s and 1990’s that automatically altered its relation with the outside world. During the cold war China had made itself self-sufficient in nearly all resources and technologies but lagged twenty to thirty years behind the world’s technical standards with low labor and capital productivity. After Chairman Mao Zedong’s death Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1978 and announced a policy of “Reform and Opening”. Reform meant liberalizing the domestic economy and “Opening” meant relations with the rest of the  world. The embrace of globalization enhanced china’s security issues in some ways in all its ‘Four Security Rings’.[26] In the first ring, globalization opened China to penetration by foreign people, media, institutions, ideas, norms and Values. In the second ring and third ring, china needed peace and stability in order to pursue economic ties. It normalized ties with neighbors with whom it had broken either state to state relations (South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia) or party to party relations (Vietnam) and resolved most of its boundary disputes. In the fourth ring, china joined with most of the international regimes. It joined the WTO, signed the main arms Control and disarmament treaties and ratified the main international human rights treaties. Thus china becomes a status quo power in a system designed by the west.[27] Ensuring it’s Security and interest both home and abroad, China gradually developing and implementing its strategy.

The Question in now, could the Art of war be important in analyzing china’s strategic behavior? In other words do sun Tzu’s thoughts inference china’s strategic thoughts?

We will be searching the answers by a deep analysis of Sun Tzu’s teachings and thoughts.


Sun Tzu said

War is a matter of vital importance to the state, the province of life or death, the road to survive or ruin. SoIt is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.[28]

Sun Tzu started his teaching by emphasizing a proper altitude toward war. He argued that a state should place national security ahead of any other because it is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. We already discussed that, Vulnerability to threats is the main driver of china’s strategic thoughts. Ensuring China’s security is a matter of life and death and that’s the reason why china give so much priority to all of its four security rings’’. To maintaining its domestic stability, ensuring territorial boundaries and defending the external influences China maintains Good neighboring relations with Its twenty adjacent countries as well as nearby multistate regional systems in its Third Ring. China also engaged in the fourth security ring because it is the road to survival otherwise  it will ruin with its enormous demographic size and lack of resources. So sun Tzu’s first teaching is also China’s first priority.


Sun Tzu said

Having heard what can be gained from my assessments, shape a strategic advantage from them to strengthen our position. By strategic advantage I mean making the most of favorable conditions and till the scales of our favor. [29]

In sun Tzu’s thought the key ‘Art of Warfare’ is the importance of strategic advantage. And it does not only mean the physical position but the combination of morale, opportunity, timing, psychology and logistics. From the ‘Han dynasty’ (3rd century B.C – 3rd century AD) Until the mid 19th century when the ‘Qing dynasty’ was in power, Chinese regimes always protecting their heartland via border defense. But since the modern era or the beginning of the mid 19th century when China came into contact with Western imperial powers, its strategic periphery has expanded to fully encompass both continental and maritime regions.[30]After the decline of the imperial era, China went through a period of internal political fragmentation. In 1949 a unified but relatively weak nation state under communist leadership emerged. During this period they were significant geo-political challenges arising from contact with industrialized nation states and the increasing demands of economic and military modernization. There were also cultural changes, many of which could be attributed to demise of ‘Confusian concepts’[31]. Yet in this period, though comparatively weaker military power than its adversaries the People’s Republic of China (PRC) deployed military force to counter perceived threats by major industrial powers (such as United states and great Britain) into nearby periphery areas. This was the case in Korea, Tibet, Nepal and heartland borders. The PRC Leadership also planned to use military force to re-establish direct control over Taiwan.[32] Not only this china make it more complicated by engaging war  with its two largest neighbors former soviet union and the India. But china’s post Mao approach to territorial claims is to maintain a good neighbor policy that has focused on strengthening ties in Northeast, Southeast and South Asia, and exploring new relationship in central Asia. To maintain inner stability and influence others this is a concrete example of calculative strategy. In the last 10/15 years the calculative strategy has resulted in a number of significant security gains for the PRC. Domestic order and wellbeing have been strengthened as a result of Sustained high rates of economic growth and increase in their living standards. For its global presence and involvement china’s status and prestige have increased and that creates opportunity for political involvement and investment its entire Second, Third and Fourth  rings. And for this economic rise  china is able to build an advanced military and technologies.

Thus China enhanced its strategic advantage which Sun Tzu mentioned to strengthen ones position.




Sun Tzu said

All Warfare is based on deception[33]

Sun Tzu repeated this famous phrase half a dozen times in his book and in this phrase ‘All Warfare’ needs further explanation. Because Sun Tzu mentioned several types of warfare such as, psychological warfare, media warfare or propaganda and legal warfare. To win in all these warfare deception is a must. By Understanding deception A famous chapter of the fourteenth century novel “Romance of the three kingdoms” will be helpful which we already discussed. This ancient story symbolizes Chinese strategists ability to magnify limited resources, appear stronger than they are and deter enemies from attack or subversion while biding their time to build up power. The same phrase president ‘Deng Xiaoping’ used in his “24 character plan” that, “Hide our capability and bide our time”, which was a central Chinese strategy since the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989. The same scenario will be found in China’s “National Defense Paper” which is published every 2 years. In the preface we read “China will never seek hegemony”.[34]. But in May 2013 Chinese news papers discussed possession of Okinawa, strategically important Japanese Island. In 2012 a PLA think tank the Military science Academy advocated a `Strong military strategy’ that insists that the PLA Navy must protect national interests west of 165 East and north of 35 south. On its maps china portrays a three line configuration that includes the Hawaiian Islands, America’s strategically important Islands. Admiral timothy Keating. Commander of U.S pacific command stated that ‘Chinese strategy is clearly deceptive’, that’s what exactly sun Tzu’s leaching was about.

Sun Tzu said:

Operations of  war require one thousand fast four horse chariots, one thousand horse wagons and one hundred thousand mailed troops.’’ [35]

In his Second chapter named ‘Waging War’ Sun Tzu emphasized that after ensuring security and taking advanced strategy a state needs advanced and dominating troops. In China The’PLA’ or Peoples Liberation Army as all the braches of china’s military are collectively called was a huge force of 4 million officers and troops even in the late 1970’s. Their fighting experience was limited to land warfare, their weapons were primitive and they have rudimentary communications. The Tiananmen incident in 1989 and a series of strategic shocks like the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and in 1991 the fall of ‘Soviet Union’ made China realize that they need to improve the capabilities for the domestic and external security. The stunning victory of the U.S Led coalition forces over the Iraqi military in the ‘Gulf War’ that broadcast on global television awakened the Chinese generals to the existence of a new technological horizon in warfare.[36] Since then the reduction and modernization of the troops are regularly happening. In September 3, 2015 [37]

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of WW II , President Xi Jinping announced that the PLA Would be cutting 300,000 troops,that will bring the total number of troops just 2 million from a high point of 6.2 million during the Korean war[38]


PLA modernization:

The Emerging threats and the changing nature of warfare have largely driven PLA modernization and capabilities development. Below are the key trends in PLA capabilities and force structure:

  1. Chinese UAVs and UCAVs:

According to the U.S National Air and Space intelligence center “China has been developing a wide range of UAVs including long range and low observable systems capable of strike missions”.[39]

China already deployed unarmed UAV over the ‘Senkaku Islands’ in September 2013.[40]

  1. Hypersonic Glied vehicles (HGV):

HGV is another new technology that the PLA is currently testing which goes a step beyond China’s antiship ballistic Missile (ASBM) Program, capable of extending the range of ballistic missiles against land and sea targets.[41]

  1. New stealth fighters:

Throughout 2013, China tested its new fifth generation stealth fighters, J-20 and J-31 is capable of launching both short and long range missiles and that a long range maritime strike capability may be a cause for greater concern for U.S [42]

  1. Aircraft Carrier:

With its first aircraft carrier “The Liaoning” already at sea and a second which is under construction. It is clear that China will Continue to build on its career program beyond a symbol of great power, these carriers give the PLA a way to extend air and air defense coverage over its maritime interests in the South China Sea.[43]

  1. Space based capabilities:

The PLA has also been investing to increase its space capabilities. China’s overall satellite capabilities are improving rapidly and also developing its Terrestrial information and electronic warfare capabilities.

The Rapid Modernization of PLA Indicates the sun Tzu’s teaching of waging war.


Sun Tzu Said:

Use the normal force to engage, use the extraordinary to win.[44]

In the time of RMA (Revolution in military affairs) and modern cyber technology, the phrase is what Chinese Strategists are really believed in. cyber warfare and cyber espionage have been in the news recently. The people’s liberation army is clearly working to develop greater cyber capabilities to degrade the war fighting capabilities of an adversary. They provide unique offensive capabilities against strategic targets such as power grids transportation networks and financial systems, logistics hubs, key missile systems,  air and naval bases. [45]

It’s possible that china deployed its extra ordinaries to win the modern warfare.


Sun Tzu Said:

What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.[46]

If we consider U.S.A as china’s Top most enemy of becoming a great power and consider India as china’s regional enemy, sun Tzu’s thought will be meaningful how China’s strategy is influenced by him.

China’s recent modernization of PLA shows its interest in becoming a great power by all means. China is developing a navy twice the size of the U.S Navy and working to replace the United States as the major global power.[47]

There are few signals about how China is working to surpass the U.S strategy in Asia and elsewhere. China considers Taiwan as their breakaway province. The  U.S supports Taiwan with weapons to deter Chinese aggression. Chinese president Xi Jinping has signaled that China will seek to reclaim its historical properties by 2049[48].

China is using a giant infrastructure project called the Belt and Road initiative to build an alternative route from central China to the west, inspired by ancient ‘Silk Road’. It will surpass the U.S Controlled shipping lanes to gain control over foreign sea ports and other facilities. Major investment go to Pakistan, Sri lanka and Bangladesh which allows China to go the Indian Ocean and thus surpass the Indian Strategy and interest in this region. Beside this making a good tie with Nepal and historical tie with Myanmar encircled India and give China a strategical advantage over India. In the East and South China sea China already threatened U.S Asian strategy as well as its allies in this region.

Though China is already world’s largest economy by ‘nominal GDP’ , The U.S China trade imbalance record $ 375 billion U.S deficit in goods trade in 2017 looms large behind the threat of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Beijing’s ‘Made in china 2025’ program, an industrial upgrading strategy that aims to shift China’s economy into higher valued manufacturing sectors, such as robotics, aerospace and energy saving vehicles shows that China wants to compete in advanced manufacturing with U.S.[49]


Sun Tzu said

“know the enemy and know yourself, in a hundred battle you will never be in peril”[50]

Carl von Clausewitz’s ” On War”has only few pages mentioning intelligence. He writes.,” in short most intelligence is false .B.H. Liddell Hart’s ” Strategy “ perhaps intentionally has no discussion of intelligence at all. But Sun Tzu spends the entire last chapter of ” The Art of war” discussion intelligence. Sun Tzu identifies five types of secret agents. The First is the native agent which is no doubt that so important for anti-terror warfare .David W. Szady aformer assistant director of the FBI stated that ‘ the Chinese… mastered the use of multiple redundant collection platform by looking for students, delegates to conference relative and researches to gather information “.[51]

The second secret  agent is the one inside the organization. Paul D. Moore, the former FBI chief of Chinese intelligence analyst stated,”Some America of Chinese ancestry in semitive researches or defense related positions now feel themselves ti be under increased secretary as security risks”[52]

The last types of secret agent is the living agent. Who collects information and returns with it.Most living agents today engage in cyber espionage..the US offices at the  National counter intelligence Report (2011). which states.” Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators.So Chinese intelligence strategy is heavily influenced by Sun Tzu.

China’s grand strategy:

A Countries grand strategy generally shaped by its geography and history and as well as its foreign policy agenda.

China’s principal grand strategy is to restore and maintain its territorial integrity because of china’s defensive attitude since its history and its complex geography and demography. To maintain domestic political stability, block outside support for separation movements in Tibet, Xinjiag and the inner Mongolian autonomous region, reclaim Taiwan, defend maritime claims in the East China and South China seas. This requires improving capacity of internal security and global diplomatic presence. A second goal is to prevent the domination of the Asian region by others while expanding Chinese influence among neighbors. And a careful mix of military capability, economic power and diplomatic improvement is needed to influence neighbors without pushing them into a hostile reaction. A Third goal of China’s strategy is to create a favorable international environment for its economic growth. China favors stable world markets, opposes trading blocs, and works for access to foreign markets and commodities. Finally, China seeks a voice in the shape of the evolving global order. In the age of growing international regimes, finance, non-proliferation, environmental policy and human rights, China use both trade-offs and “soft power” to influence the way these rules evolve, because a nation’s influence consists not only of strategic and economic power but also of the soft power of values and Ideas. China pursues these goals with a careful mixture of Power and  weakness. The vast hinterland provides room to fall back and defend in depth. This is a major reason why china was not colonized during the era of imperialism. Population is also a mixed liability and asset. By being so numerous, the Chinese affect the fates of the rest of the world whatever they do, when the emigrate, when they purchase grain on world markets when they build roads, drive their cars and sail their Ships. Because of China’s demographic size, no global problem can be solved without it.[53]

China’s economy is on track to become the world’s largest. This position certainly gives the country global influence and strong basis for a sophisticated military machine, but it also makes China heavily dependent on global markets and resources for its own prosperity and stability. Though China’s GDP per  capita of 10,087 USD[54] ranked only 71th in the world which makes it a developing country but quality of life measures, Chinese population is more educated, healthier and better skilled than the figure suggest. The fact is that china is in the different senses of both poor and rich. By entering the world economy China has both gained the ability to influence others and opened itself to economic influence from others. By geo-politics, China’s location is in the heart of Asia, abundance of difficult neighbors, its location between American and Russian spheres of influence, all define the difficulties of China’s geo-political position and Strategical importance.[55] And China has a dual responsibility of both home and abroad because Beijing has come to realize that its internal stability is increasingly vulnerable to international level and China’s international influence depends on its ability to maintain stability at home.


read more Bangladesh-China economic military and diplomatic relations


Conclusion : Is China a threat?

It’s true that China’s arrival as a great power is no longer a possibility but  a reality. China’s rapid growth of its economy,  eventually narrowed the gap in military gap between U.S and Japan,  made initial investments in applying soft power and moved into the whole globe as a major economic and diplomatic actor. That’s a one side of the story, China at the same time continues to face serious security challenges within its territory and around its borders. Most of its neighbors view China’s rise with fear. Beijing exerts less influence than it wants to in the regional balance of power and in international regimes. ” China is still not a satisfied power “[56]

But China’s strength can turn into threatening but is it? on the economic perspective, China’s rise has helped drive economic growth in many Asian economic and in countries in Africa , Latin America. Though it also took away some local jobs and mode the environment fragile on the strategic perspective, the rise of China has brought a broad convergence of its interest with those of the west. If china were to mount such a challenge to western dominance, it would have to acquire access military bases where it has important interests to protect. But the potential of this kind of threat is inherent in China’s growing power but not inevitable. The task for the coming decades may be to define a role for china that is more constructive than destructive or threatening. And that will establish a new equilibrium of power with a larger role for China.

Nayeem Hossain
Executive Editor, International Affairs.
He is a student of the dept. of International Relations,  University of Chittagong




[1]Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, “China’s search for security”(New York: Colombia University Press, 2012)


[2]Andrew J. Nathan and Robert S. Ross, ‘The Great wall and the Empty Fortress’:China’s Search for Security’(New York:Norton,1997)


[4]Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”, trans. Samuel. B. Griffith (Oxford: Oxford University press, 1963) ,p.1

[5]An era of ancient Chinese history of warfare following the Spring and Autumn period.

[6]Ibid, p. 14

[7]Ibid, p. 57

[8]The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China”, Trans. and edited by Ralph D. Sawyer, Westview press, 1993]


[9]Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”, trans. Samuel. B. Griffith (Oxford: Oxford University press, 1963) ,p. 63

[10]Mao Tse Tung, “Selected Works”,p. 187

[11]Mao Tse-Tung,“On the Protracted War”, p. 100

[12]United states Military Posture for FY 1989 (Washington, DC: US government printing office, 1989), p 5-6, 93-94

[13]Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”, trans. Samuel. B. Griffith (Oxford: Oxford University press, 1963) ,p. 97

[14]Fumio Ota, Sun Tzu in contemporary Chinese strategy, JFQ 73, 2nd Quarter 2014, p. 77

[15]Ibid,p. 77

[16]Ibid,p. 91

[17]Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, “China’s search for security”(New York: Colombia University Press, 2012)

[18]Ibid, p. 4

[19]Ibid, p. 5

[20]Ibid,p. 6

[21]Ibid, p. 7

[22]world population protects, The 2017 Revision. ESA.UN.Org

[23]China’s major ethnic group

[24]Tabulation of the 2010 census of the people republic of china, china statistics press


[25]United States Central Intelligence Agency, 1983. The map shows the distribution of ethnolinguistic groups according to the historical majority ethnic groups by region. Note this is different from the current distribution due to age-long internal migration and assimilation.

[26]Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, “China’s search for security”(New York: Colombia University Press, 2012)

[27]Alistair Iain Johnston “Is china a status quo power? international security 27, no 4 ( spring 2003) 5-6


[28]Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”, trans. Samuel. B. Griffith (Oxford: Oxford University press, 1963) ,p. 67

[29]Ibid, p. 97

[30]Michael D. Swaine and Ashley J. Tellis, Interpreting china’s Grand Strategy; past ‘present and future (Santa Monica RAND, 2000), 46

[31]Ibid, p. 32

[32]Ibid, p.64

[33]Ibid, P.66

[34]China’s National defense 2012 (Beijing Ministry of defense 2013), Preface

[35] Ibid, p. 92

[36]Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, “China’s search for security”(New York: Colombia University Press, 2012)

[37]The diversified Employment of china’s Armed force,Xinhua ,April 16,2013

[38]Assessing new china’s  11th Round of troops Cuts: From 6.2 million to 2 million China news service, September 3,2015

[39]Lee fuell,“Broad trends in Chinese Air force and missile modernization”; U.S department of the Air force, Washington D.C January 30,2014, p.5

[40]AFP, September 9,2013

[41]RAND, 2015.

[42]Ibid, p. 76

[43]Ibid, p. 76

[44]Ibid, p. 6

[45]Cheng, 2009

[46]Ibid, p.76

[47]Oren Dorrel, How china’s military expansion threatens us interests,USA Today May 18, 2018

[48]USA Today, 2018

[49]Kristen Hopewell, “What is modern china 2025 and why is it a threat to trumps trade goals?, The Washington post, May 3, 2018


[51]Neil A. Lewis. ” Spy cases Raise Concern on Chinese intentions. ” The New york Times, July 10,2008

[52]Paul D.Moore, “How China plays the ethnic card”, has angeles Times, june 24.1999

[53]Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell, “China’s search for security”(New York: Colombia University Press, 2012)

[54]IMF date Mapper, IMF April, 2018

[55] Ibid, p. 14

[56] Ibid, p. 389

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