Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping

March 2019 No Comments

Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping

Speaker: Khan, S. (Tufts University)

Date: 12 March 2019

Speaker Session Preview

SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. Sulmaan Khan (Tufts University) as a part of its Future of Great Power Competition & Conflict Speaker Series. To begin, Dr. Khan revealed the inspiration for his book, entitled Haunted by Chaos: China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping. He then defined “grand strategy” and identified several consistencies and inconsistencies among Chinese leaders’ grand strategies from the 1920s to the present. He highlighted that memories of being “broken” in specific ways have underlain Chinese grand strategies throughout the past 100 years. He elaborated that China believes that it is a “brittle entity in a hostile world” and, consequently, it is constantly striving for security. Dr. Khan then outlined a few examples of Chinese efforts to ensure its security, including the modernization of its military and its government’s efforts to keep its citizens on its side. He summarized several of the grand strategies pursued by a number of China’s instrumental leaders, including Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping. He primarily focused on the grand strategies of Mao, Deng, and Xi, as well as the key defining events that occurred during their leadership. He then emphasized the importance of reflecting on China’s past grand strategies when assessing its current strategy. Dr. Khan concluded by posing two thought-provoking questions regarding the “perils” of China’s success that US and Chinese strategists must consider: “What if, in defending yourself, you have grown to such size and heft that you are terrifying your neighbors into upping their arms spending, thereby forcing you to up your arms spending down the line as well?” and “What if in securing your economy, you have bankrupted the very national resources that made your country successful?”

Speaker Session Audio File

Download Dr. Khan’s Biography


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