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China’s Strategic Vision

This three-part series of papers—the first in the "Occasional Papers" series published by MITRE’s Center for Strategic Competition (CSC)—describes the worldview and strategic ambitions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Authored by CSC Director and MITRE Fellow Christopher Ford, these papers seek to help the reader better understand the assumptions CCP leaders make about the international environment, China’s place and mission in that environment, the means by which it expects to achieve its goals, and the new international order the CCP ultimately hopes to create.

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  • In the first paper of the series, The Communist Party’s Strategic Framing, Ford offers an outline of the primary concepts that CCP officials bring to the table in approaching the world beyond China’s borders, and in framing Beijing’s approaches to foreign affairs and national security issues.
  • In Part II, Tools and Axes of Competition, Ford discusses the specific aspects of competition that China envisions in its concept of “comprehensive national power,” and through which it approaches achieving the strategic ambitions it has set for itself.
  • In Part III, Envisioning a Sinocentric World, Ford rounds out the trilogy on China’s strategic vision by describing the future world order that Chinese strategists imagine to be possible, and that CCP leaders have made it their objective to pursue.

These papers are based upon the idea that policymaking in response to the geopolitical challenges China presents to the United States—and to America’s allies, partners, and friends around the world—needs to be informed by an understanding of how Chinese leaders see the world and frame their own objectives therein. Our leaders need to understand the holistic nature of China’s approach and the sweeping extent of its geopolitical ambitions in order to devise effective responses to the strategic competition challenges China presents under CCP rule.

This three-part series offers the reader a foundational understanding upon which to base future efforts to develop and implement successful counter-strategy: about the assumptions CCP officials make about how the world works, the identity they claim for themselves on the basis of curated and cultivated foundations of Chinese historical memory, the role and mission they ascribe to themselves and to China in this context, and their vision for what the world will look like if Beijing “wins” the fateful competition with the United States upon which it has embarked.

It should be stressed that while these papers provide an account of how the CCP sees the world and what it intends to accomplish therein, Ford offers no prediction here as to how successful the Party will be in achieving its objectives. (Indeed, these papers are offered in the hope that by understanding that vision, leaders in the United States and other parts of the world will be better able to prevent the CCP from succeeding in those aspects of its strategy that threaten U.S. interests, those of our allies and partners, and those of peoples everywhere who wish to continue to enjoy sovereign autonomy and democratically accountable, rule-of-law governance.)

China may ultimately succeed in its aims, or it may not. The reader will find here not predictions of the future but merely a description of China’s strategic vision and its potential implications, which CSC hopes will contribute to making our leaders wiser and more effective in their policymaking vis-à-vis the PRC.