What Type of Great Power Will China Become? China’s Pursuance of its Core Interests during the Global Downturn in 2008-2010

ASIA FORUM with Suisheng Zhao

Professor and Executive Director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Monday, August 30, 2010, 10:00-11:30


China followed Deng’s taoguangyanghui (low profile) policy for many years after the end of the Cold War. During the global economic down turn in 2008-10, however, instead of talking about Deng’s low profile dictum, China reminded the West that “no one should expect China to swallow the bitter fruit that hurts its interest” in response to President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama. Some Observers hence believe that the Chinese leadership has reoriented Chinese foreign policy toward a more assertive, if not a more aggressive, direction after rapidly economic growth in the past three decades. This paper examines China’s foreign policy behavior during the global downturn and finds that although the global economic crisis could become a point of shift in China’s strategic relations with the Western powers, China continues to make most of its foreign policy-decisions based on the issues that are of importance only to China, i.e., the so-called core interests involving such as Taiwan and Tibetan issues, rather than on the basis of broader regional or global economic and security concerns. One defining tension in China’s foreign policy agenda is still to find a balance between taking more international responsibility as a rising power and focusing on its narrowly defined core interests to play down its pretense of being a global power.


Suisheng Zhao is Professor and Executive Director of the Center for China-US Cooperation at Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. He is founding editor of the Journal of Contemporary China, a member of the Board of Governors of the US Committee of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (USCSCAP), a member of National Committee on US-China Relations, a Research Associate at the Fairbanks Center for East Asian Research in Harvard University, and a honorary jianzhi professor at Beijing University, Renmin University, China University of International Relations, Fudan University and Shanghai foreign Studies University. A Campbell National Fellow at Hoover Institution of Stanford University, he was Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Washington College in Maryland, Associate Professor of Government and East Asian Politics at Colby College in Maine and visiting assistant professor at the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at University of California-San Diego. He received his Ph.D. degree in political science from the University of California-San Diego, M.A. degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri and BA and M.A. degrees in economics from Peking University.

He is the author and editor of ten books including: China and the United States, Cooperation and Competition in Northeast Asia (Palgrave/Macmillion, 2008), China-US Relations Transformed: Perspectives and Strategic Interactions (Routledge, 2008), Debating Political Reform in China: Rule of Law versus Democratization (M. E. Sharpe, 2006), A Nation-State by Construction: Dynamics of Modern Chinese Nationalism (Stanford University Press, 2004), Chinese Foreign Policy: Pragmatism and Strategic Behavior (M. E. Sharpe, 2003), China and Democracy: Reconsidering the Prospects for a Democratic China (Routledge, 2000), Across the Taiwan Strait: Mainland China, Taiwan, and the Crisis of 1995-96 (Routledge, 1999).
His articles have appeared in Political Science QuarterlyThe Wilson Quarterly, Washington Quarterly, International Politik, The China Quarterly, World AffairsAsian SurveyAsian AffairsJournal of Democracy, Pacific Affairs, Communism and Post-Communism Studies, Problems of Post-Communism, and elsewhere.
Location: ISDP, Västra Finnbodavägen 2, Stockholm-Nacka. For a map and directions, please go here.

To attend: RSVP to Ms. Anna von Wachenfelt at  avonwachenfelt@isdp.eu.