China's Game of Chicken in the East China Sea
For the last three decades, China's principal foreign policy objective has been to seek a stable external environment as a favorable condition for domestic economic development. This grand strategy was summarized by the late leader Deng Xiaoping as "hiding brightness and building up strength quietly."
By and large, this has been an extraordinarily successful foreign policy strategy. Its achievements are easy to spot. It has enabled China to gain access to the West-dominated international trading system and increase its economic growth at a rate no Chinese leader, Deng included, had thought possible.
Today, few observers of Chinese foreign policy would agree that "hiding brightness and building up strength quietly" remains Beijing's grand strategy. China's assertiveness on the global stage since 2010 has been in clear violation of Deng's dictum. By pressing its maritime claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, Beijing has demonstrated that it has gained enough strength to be treated like a great power.
Minxin Pei is Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and a non-resident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.