China: What Is Driving Its Strategic Outlook?

Dr Bates Gill, Kippenberger Fellow – August 15, 2016

At least four critical factors shape Chinese foreign and security policy today – the first two are long-term and historical in nature, the second two are more contemporary.

The first is what Dr Gill called the forces of “historical geodemography” and the challenges it has posed to Chinese stability and security over many, many centuries. That is, the lengthy borders, large size and enormous population, making it perpetually vulnerable to foreign incursion while also giving it huge resources to maintain political, cultural and military sway. It huge domestic population also has meant that threats to regime survival more often than not arose from within, hence the importance of quelling political and social discontent across a vast Han population and, as China’s borders have expanded, across ethnically non-Han populations also.

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