The Heading belongs to a Brookings Institution Foreign Policy Program "Order from Chaos Project" Asian Working Group Paper No. 2 (February, 2016), authored by Jeffrey A Bader, Brookings Senior Fellow affiliated with the John L. Thornton China Center.
The Project sets out to examine dynamics that uphold or challenge the world order, define US interests in re-vitalizing a rule-based liberal international order, and suggest policy recommendations in time for the next US Presidency. The Working Paper explains President Xi's world view and his perceived more assertive stance in the global order partly as a product of China's development trajectory since the founding of the People's Republic of China.
Under Chairman Mao, the West-dominated world order was rejected as imperialist, oppressive of the weak and hence illegitimate. China was bent on exporting Communism but otherwise preferred to be left alone in "splendid isolation" to pursue her own development under Communist ideology.
Under Deng Xiaoping, China opened up to and joined the world system and its institutions, including the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum. Even the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was accepted as a beneficial balancer against an aggressive Soviet Union. In international relations, however, Deng's mantra was "tao guang yang hui" 韬光养晦, which translates into "“develop capabilities while keeping a low profile".
This mantra was continued during the administrations of Deng's successors - President Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao. The US-led international system was largely embraced by China which benefited from it hugely. Where certain norms were perceived to be in conflict with China's own perspectives, China was vocal but lacked the comprehensive power to project her own global interests and ideas effectively.
President Xi inherited a China much more powerful economically, financially and militarily. He "emerged from the experiences of privilege and suffering with a firm faith in the necessity of a strong Communist Party to govern China, an aversion to chaos and social instability, a commitment to China’s economic growth based on acceptance of the role of markets, and demand for respect for China internationally". "The new ideas of the Xi era reflect massive changes in China’s place in the international system, its economic, political, and military strength, and China’s expectation that the international system would and should accommodate this transformed China." Xi's vision is for the nation's global renaissance encapsulated in his "China Dream."
The author makes the point that it would be surprising if a transformed global power doesn't seek a larger role in the world system of which it forms such an integral part. Indeed, there is broad consensus that China should now be allowed a larger role as "responsible stakeholder" both as "operator" and as a "rule-writer".
The author recognizes that at the same time, China is facing a mountain of unprecedented challenges at home and abroad. This necessitated a transformed and powerful Party to navigate and push through critical reforms with a full command of the domestic leverages of power. This echoes the theme of an earlier prescient report of the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) (Mark Leonard, ed., November, 2012). This argued that China is trapped in its own success and needs to enter into a transformative era. Click here
The author's conclusion is that China under Xi and beyond is likely to remain committed to the existing market and rule-based international system, yet prepared to challenge, modify, or deviate from it whenever it doesn't suit China's own development imperatives. He debunks popular suspicions that China is prone to imposing a Monroe Doctrine trying to exclude US influence from the Asia-Pacific or exercising coercion on China's weaker neighbors in support of a classically-Chinese tributary system. Both concepts, according to the author, are outdated and unsuited to an inter-dependent and inter-connected world in the 21st century. Nor would they support China's long-term development goals.
In short, according to the author, China is not, at least for now, a revisionist power. Nevertheless, he opines that the jury is still out on how China treats her weaker neighbors as her global power expands over time.