China’s new leadership takes office amid growing questions about China’s internal direction and its assertive foreign policy. Conventional wisdom portrays China in the mode of Sun Tzu, far-sighted strategists looking decades ahead. But thus far, it appears that China’s leaders have strategic goals, but no apparent strategy for how to achieve them. This Atlantic Council brief, authored by Robert A. Manning and Banning Garrett, assesses the challenges China faces–worsening pollution, corruption, and a growth model that needs sweeping reforms and examines the difficulties Beijing faces in addressing them.
At the same time, China has been pursuing an assertive foreign policy toward Asia and the US that also seems to be out of step with China’s long-term interests. The brief offers a look at possible alternative futures scenarios for China. It also explores how China’s direction may impact the future of US-China relations and what steps may lead the bilateral relationship on to a more cooperative than confrontational path.