At China’s Central Foreign Relations Work Conference—an infrequently-held high level strategy session on the nation’s foreign policy—convened on June 23, 2018, Chinese leaders issued an array of foreign policy directives designed to strengthen the activist foreign policy outlined by Xi at the previous foreign affairs work conference held in 2014.
Timothy R. Heath is a Senior International Defense Research Analyst with the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and the author of the book, China’s New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation.
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Dueling high level strategy documents in both the United States and China portend an intensifying competition for leadership and influence at the global systemic level. The coming years are likely to see a deepening contest in the diplomatic, economic, cyber, and information domains, even as the risks of major war remain low. Although the U.S. strategy has garnered considerable scrutiny, less attention has been paid to the directives outlined in key official Chinese strategy documents.
For China, the first of its two “centennial anniversaries”—in 2021 (100 years since the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPP) founding) and 2049 (100 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China) —arrives in just four years. Although Beijing has publicly disavowed any timeline for unification with Taiwan, there is little question that CCP leaders would prefer the issue to be settled by then, or at least to oversee sufficient progress to justify its stewardship of the country’s revitalization.