Global Bite

The Chinese Colossus, Really?

Can China displace the United States as a military colossus in command of global affairs? Does it want to do so?

PLA 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division, July 2011. (Credit: U.S. Dept. of Defense via Wikimedia)


  • Chinese history has made Chinese leaders risk-averse. They cannot afford errors at home or abroad.
  • The Chinese see "foreignness" as the natural condition of foreigners. It's not worth it to change them.

China’s human and natural history as well as its geography make its leaders risk-averse. They are conservative and cautious in their management of their country and its foreign affairs.

Even if China had an ideology or political-economic system it could export (which it doesn’t), its leadership would still be very conscious that it cannot afford to make mistakes at home or abroad.

China’s multiple past wounds and present vulnerabilities are about as solid a guarantee as one could hope for that it will continue to be interested mainly in its own domestic tranquility and prosperity.

The Chinese see “foreignness” as the natural, if deplorable, condition of foreigners. They are flattered when non-Chinese seek to improve themselves by becoming more like the Chinese.

But the Chinese have never thought it worth the effort to go forth to civilize those afflicted by “foreignness” by teaching them to become something other than what they are. China has no messianic impulse.

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About Chas W. Freeman

Chas Freeman was the main interpreter for U.S. President Richard Nixon in his 1972 visit to China and was the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992.

Responses to “The Chinese Colossus, Really?”

Archived Comments.

  1. On November 8, 2013 at 9:14 am Dan DeBono responded with... #

    China is a much more racist than the US. Anyone who does not understand this is ignorant.

  2. On November 9, 2013 at 9:42 am crygdyllyn responded with... #

    What you say may be true, but they DO want to expand their military power and influence. The China Sea is their main target, both as a source of wealth, but also to reduce the countries of SE Asia to a subordinated status. They want their nearby countries to be in their geopolitical and economic orbit. I believe they see this as natural, just as Latin America (for now) and the Caribbean are in our orbit. Their success will depend more on those countries, than on our policies.

  3. On November 9, 2013 at 9:45 am crygdyllyn responded with... #

    That may be true, but that has not stopped them from becoming the main player in Africa. The US is hardly a factor in Africa compared to China’s activities. They are everywhere, building roads and infrastructure. Africa is re-orienting itself to the Orient.