China's Vision of World Order

China has benefited from the liberal international order led by the United States. However, China is uncomfortable with aspects of the current system and will seek to change them as part of a broader effort to reform global institutions to reflect its perception of 21st-century realities. One set of shaping factors—China’s assessment of the current world order—identifies much that Chinese leaders would be reluctant to change because they want to continue to reap benefits without assuming greater burdens. A second set of factors includes traditional Chinese or Confucian concepts of world order. A third set of factors comprises the attitudes and actions of other countries. China’s rise has been achieved by accepting greater interdependence, and its ability to exert influence depends on the responses of other nations.

Policy Implications

  • China appears to want to maintain most elements of the current global order, including U.S. leadership. But it also wants the United States to allow other nations, specifically China, to have a greater voice in decisions affecting the international system.
  • China is more interested in improving and establishing rules and institutions needed to meet 21st-century challenges than in wholesale replacement of existing mechanisms. This makes China a willing as well as necessary partner in the remaking of institutions to meet shared international challenges.
  • Despite incurring Beijing’s disapproval, the United States must continue to hedge against uncertainties by maintaining the collective security arrangements and institutions that have contributed to global stability and the security of individual nations.

Appears in Strategic Asia 2012–13: China's Military Challenge, Ashley J. Tellis and Travis Tanner, eds.