Haunted by Chaos

China’s Grand Strategy from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping

Harvard University Press: Before the Chinese Communist Party came to power, China lay broken and fragmented. Today, it is a force on the global stage, and yet its leaders have continued to be haunted by the past. Drawing on an array of sources, Sulmaan Wasif Khan chronicles the grand strategies that have sought not only to protect China from aggression but also to ensure it would never again experience the powerlessness of the late Qing and Republican eras.



For Generations of P.R.C. Leaders, a World ‘Alive with Danger’

Sulmaan Khan
There can be few jobs more difficult than that of paramount leader of China: the surrounding world invariably alive with danger, the extent of the state, its integrity and stability forever uncertain. For an outsider, it is easy to observe that the...

The dramatic variations in China’s modern history have obscured the commonality of purpose that binds the country’s leaders. Analyzing the calculus behind their decision making, Khan explores how they wove diplomatic, military, and economic power together to keep a fragile country safe in a world they saw as hostile. Dangerous and shrewd, Mao Zedong made China whole and succeeded in keeping it so, while the caustic, impatient Deng Xiaoping dragged China into the modern world. Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao served as cautious custodians of the Deng legacy, but the powerful and deeply insecure Xi Jinping has shown an assertiveness that has raised both fear and hope across the globe.

For all their considerable costs, China’s grand strategies have been largely successful. But the country faces great challenges today. Its population is aging, its government is undermined by corruption, its neighbors are arming out of concern over its growing power, and environmental degradation threatens catastrophe. A question Haunted by Chaos raises is whether China’s time-tested approach can respond to the looming threats of the 21st century.

Book Review: 

Publishers Weekly (July 2, 2018)

Related Reading:

China’s Grand Strategy in a New Era,” Zhong Feiteng, East Asia Forum, March 5, 2018

Globalisation and Chinese Grand Strategy,” Aaron Friedberg, Survival, January 29, 2018

China’s Search for a Grand Strategy: A Rising Great Power Finds Its Way,” Wang Jisi, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2011

Interpreting China’s Grand Strategy,” Michael Swaine and Ashley Tellis, RAND, 2000

Author’s Recommendations:

China’s Search for Security, Andrew J. Nathan and Andrew Scobell (Columbia University Press, 2014)

Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750, Odd Arne Westad (Basic, 2012)

Strategies of Containment, John Lewis Gaddis (Oxford University Press, 2005)

Red China Blues, Jan Wong (Anchor, 1997)