Skip to:

China and the World


"Focus straight ahead on the development of Pudong [Shanghai commercial district]," says Deng Xiaoping on a poster at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.
Photo credit: 


Distinguished Fellow

China’s “rise” has elicited envy, admiration, and fear among its neighbors and more distant countries. Much of what has been written about the modalities and impact of China’s increased activism on the world stage comes close to depicting what has happened (and what presumably will happen in the future) as determined almost entirely by goals, approaches, and instruments conceived in Beijing and implemented as designed by their Chinese authors. Such descriptions and explanations minimize or ignore the other side of the equation, namely, what individuals, corporate actors, and governments in other countries do to attract, shape, exploit, or deflect Chinese involvement. This project will redress the imbalance by examining the actions of China’s partners and ways in which initiatives and reactions from partners have shaped Chinese policy and the outcome of engagements with other countries.

The ultimate objective of the study is to understand and anticipate China’s behavior on the world stage. But China’s objectives, methods, and impacts vary from one region to another, and differences between regions are as interesting and as important as are practices and patterns common to all parts of the globe. Describing and explaining regional differences (as well as differences among countries in the same region) is therefore a useful, if not necessary, prerequisite for examining behavior and interactions at the global level.

North America, to be sure, is arguably the most important partner and shaper of China’s international behavior in the decades since Deng Xiaoping launched the policy of “reform and opening” that has transformed China. The reason for not focusing specifically on the United States in this study is that U.S.-China relations have been studied more extensively than any other Chinese relationship. However, the extent and nature of U.S. relations with countries in all regions make it imperative to consider U.S.-China relations in each region and their role, if any, in shaping China’s relationships with other countries.

The project will focus initially on Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia. China has a long history and deeply varied relationship with these two regions. At the next stage, the project will examine China’s relationship with South Asia. Additional regions, such as Central Asia, may be added.

The project will begin with a one and a half day workshop on Mar. 19–20, 2012, convened in Beijing at the new Stanford Center on the campus of Peking University. It will focus on China’s relationships with Japan, Korea, and Russia in Northeast Asia. The participation of scholars from Southeast Asia and North America will help ensure that the core questions developed at the workshop are broadly applicable to other regions as well.