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The Offensive Realists Are Not Wrong: China’s Growth and Aggression, 1976–2001

Authors: Sung Chul Jung and Kihyun Lee

Pacific Focus, Vol. XXXII, No. 1 (April 2017), 86–108


Is China’s rise a threat? Offensive realists see rising China as a main cause of global instability in the 21st century. Because all states seek security through power maximization, China will clash with the United States for regional hegemony in Asia. But critics of the offensive realist view emphasize common interests, global institutions, and domestic constraints, particularly since China’s rapid growth makes the country more open to and dependent on the global economy. This study compares these competing approaches to China’s growth and regional stability and develops hypotheses based on four factors that could influence China’s interaction with other nations: China’s own level of economic power, its growth rate, whether a potential antagonist is allied with the United States, and whether the two countries have a territorial dispute. Then it conducts a logit analysis of China’s military aggression against Asian states and major powers in the post-Mao period. The results show that China’s growing power has encouraged its initiation of military conflicts, and that Beijing has become aggressive against its opponents in territorial disputes, but not more so against America’s Asian allies than against other countries. The findings suggest that China’s continued rise will likely contribute to its firm position in the South and East China Seas and its resolute protection of core strategic and economic interests.

Read the full paper at The Offensive Realists are not wrong – China’s Growth and Aggression, 1976-2001 [PDF]


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