28 May 2021

The Rush Doshi Bookshelf: Policy-Relevant Scholarship on America’s Indo-Pacific Interests, China’s Grand Strategy & Techno-Economic Competition

Among his many top-caliber publications, Rush Doshi (杜如松) coauthored a cutting-edge chapter for the Naval War College China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI)’s Naval Institute Press volume on Chinese naval shipbuilding!

Dr. Doshi brought leading expertise to his recent positions as the Director of The Brookings Institution China Strategy Initiative and a fellow in Brookings Foreign Policy, as well as a fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center.

We’re now fortunate to have such a sharp specialist serving as a China Director on the National Security Council.

Rush Doshi (杜如松) is currently serving as a China Director on the National Security Council. He was previously the director of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative and a fellow in Brookings Foreign Policy, as well as a fellow at Yale’s Paul Tsai China Center.

Doshi’s research focuses on Chinese grand strategy as well as Indo-Pacific security issues. As director of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative, Doshi led an effort that acquires, digitizes, and analyzed Mandarin-language open sources and studies Chinese behavior to understand the country’s grand strategy. At the Paul Tsai China Center, Doshi managed a project that sought to audit and improve U.S.-China crisis management mechanisms.

Doshi was previously a special advisor to the CEO of the Asia Group and an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Earlier, Doshi was a member of the Asia Policy Working Group for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, an analyst at the Long Term Strategy Group and Rock Creek Global Advisors, an Arthur Liman Fellow at the Department of State, and a Fulbright Fellow in China.

Doshi is the author of The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (forthcoming, Oxford University Press, 2021). His research has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, International Organization, and the Washington Quarterly, among other publications. Doshi has also testified before the Senate Commerce Committee and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Doshi received his doctorate from Harvard University and his bachelor’s from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs with a minor in East Asian Studies. He is proficient in Mandarin Chinese.

Please note: The views that Doshi expresses in his scholarship are solely his personal academic views, and do not in any way represent the policies or assessments of any organization with which he his, or has been, affiliated.

Publications and Presentations

Rush Doshi, The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2021).

For more than a century, no US adversary or coalition of adversaries – not Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, or even the Soviet Union – has ever reached sixty percent of US GDP. China is the sole exception, and it is fast emerging into a global superpower that could rival, if not eclipse, the United States.

What does China want, does it have a grand strategy to achieve it, and what should the United States do about it? The Long Game draws from a rich base of Chinese primary sources, including decades worth of party documents, leaked materials, memoirs by party leaders, as well as careful analysis of China’s conduct, to provide a history of China’s grand strategy since the end of the Cold War.

Taking readers behind the Party’s closed doors, this book uncovers Beijing’s long, methodical game to displace America from regional and global order through three sequential “strategies of displacement.” The book shows how China’s strategy is profoundly shaped by key events that change its perception of American power – the end of the Cold War, the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, the populist elections of 2016, and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.

Finally, the book offers a comprehensive yet “asymmetric” plan for an effective U.S. response to the China challenge. Ironically, the proposed approach takes a page from Beijing’s strategic playbook to undermine China’s ambitions and strengthen American order without competing dollar-for-dollar, ship-for-ship, or loan-for-loan.

A bold assessment of what the Chinese government’s true foreign policy objectives are, The Long Game offers valuable insight to the most important rivalry in world politics.


Introduction and Summary
Chapter 1 – “A Coherent Body of Thought and Action”: Grand Strategy and Hegemonic Order
Chapter 2 – “The Party Leads Everything”: Nationalism, Leninism, and the CCP


Chapter 3 – “New Cold Wars Have Begun”: The Trifecta and the New American Threat
Chapter 4 – “Grasping the Assassin’s Mace”: Implementing Military Blunting
Chapter 5 – “Demonstrate Benign Intentions”: Implementing Political Blunting
Chapter 6 – “Permanent Normal Trading Relations”: Implementing Economic Blunting


Chapter 7 – “A Change in the Balance of Power”: The Financial Crisis and the Dawn Building
Chapter 8 – “Make More Offensive Moves”: Implementing Military Building
Chapter 9 – “Establish Regional Architecture”: Implementing Political Building
Chapter 10 – “Aboard Our Development Train”: Implementing Economic Building


Chapter 11 – “Toward the World’s Center Stage”: The Global Order and China’s Ambitions
Chapter 12 – An Asymmetric Strategy for US-China Competition


Tarun ChhabraRush DoshiRyan Hass, and Emilie Kimball, eds., Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2021).

About the Editors

Tarun Chhabra was a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, and director of the Brookings Institution’s Project on International Order and Strategy. He previously served on the National Security Council staff and Department of Defense. He has written on U.S. grand strategy, U.S.-China relations, and U.S.- allied technology cooperation.

Rush Doshi is a former director of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative and fellow in the Brookings Foreign Policy program. He is also a former fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center. He is the author of The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order.

Ryan Hass is the Armacost Chair in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. Hass also is a nonresident fellow at Yale Law School’s Tsai China Center, and a senior advisor at McLarty Associates and The Scowcroft Group. He is author of Stronger: Adapting America’s China Strategy in an Age of Competitive Interdependence.

Emilie Kimball is an executive assistant in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. Prior to working at Brookings, she served as a staff officer on the National Security Council from 2015 to 2018, where she helped manage the national security decision-making process and staffed the President on foreign travel.

The global implications of China’s rise as a global actor

In 2005, a senior official in the George W. Bush administration expressed the hope that China would emerge as a “responsible stakeholder” on the world stage. A dozen years later, the Trump administration dramatically shifted course, instead calling China a “strategic competitor” whose actions routinely threaten U.S. interests.

Both assessments reflected an underlying truth: China is no longer just a “rising” power. It has emerged as a truly global actor, both economically and militarily. Every day its actions affect nearly every region and every major issue, from climate change to trade, from conflict in troubled lands to competition over rules that will govern the uses of emerging technologies.

To better address the implications of China’s new status, both for American policy and for the broader international order, Brookings scholars conducted research over the past two years, culminating in a project: Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World. The project is intended to furnish policy makers and the public with hard facts and deep insights for understanding China’s regional and global ambitions.

The initiative draws not only on Brookings’s deep bench of China and East Asia experts, but also on the tremendous breadth of the institution’s security, strategy, regional studies, technological, and economic development experts.

Areas of focus include the evolution of China’s domestic institutions; great power relations; the emergence of critical technologies; Asian security; China’s influence in key regions beyond Asia; and China’s impact on global governance and norms.

Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World provides the most current, broad-scope, and fact-based assessment of the implications of China’s rise for the United States and the rest of the world.


“Put simply, no international relationship will be more consequential in the twenty-first century than that of the United States and China. Responding to this pressing need, the Brookings project—Global China: Assessing China’s Growing Role in the World—provides both unprecedented breadth and depth in the evaluation of China’s actions, and their implications for U.S. interests and values.”

—John R. Allen, president, the Brookings Institution

“For as long as I can remember, the breathless pace of change in China meant you had to see it firsthand, on a regular basis, to make sense of political, economic, and social developments. Global China provides that perspective to get past the unfortunate tendency to simply admire the problem, helpfully identifying comparative advantages and vulnerabilities brought by Beijing’s expanding interests, making it a ;welcome tool for strategists and policymakers.”

—David Stilwell, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

“If we expect to successfully counter the threats that China poses to U.S. economic and national security, we must first understand the complexity of the challenge, and then develop short- and long-term strategies that are comprehensive and multilateral. This book effectively underscores the most serious issues that lawmakers must consider in dealing with China’s rise, and provides a number of noteworthy recommendations going forward.”

—U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, chairman, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

“China’s transformation from a regional actor to global power and geopolitical rival will have profound implications for the national security of the United States, our partners, and our allies. Leveraging the insights of an impressive array of experts, this volume provides a clear set of recommendations designed to ensure that the United States can effectively contend with a rapidly shifting global environment.”

—U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence


Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, “How America Can Shore Up Asian Order: A Strategy for Restoring Balance and Legitimacy,” Foreign Affairs, 12 January 2021.

Throughout the half century of Asia’s unprecedented rise, Henry Kissinger has been a pivotal figure, orchestrating the United States’ opening to China in the early 1970s and then going on to author tomes on Chinese strategy and world order. But at this transitional moment in Asia, Kissinger’s most relevant observations may be found in a more surprising place: a doctoral dissertation on nineteenth-century Europe that struggled to find a publisher when Kissinger wrote it, years before his rise to prominence.

That book, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812–22, explored how two European statesmen—one British, the other Austrian—worked to bolster fraying relations among leading continental states at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Their efforts laid the groundwork for the continent’s so-called long peace—100 years of calm and prosperity between 1815 and World War I. The book’s insights have special resonance for today’s Indo-Pacific, with its intensifying great-power politics and strained regional order. … … …


Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, “The China Challenge Can Help America Avert Decline: Why Competition Could Prove Declinists Wrong Again,” Foreign Affairs, 3 December 2020.

When U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office—likely masked and surrounded by socially distanced officials and family—he will look out on a country that many believe is in decline. The problems that propelled President Donald Trump to office, including a collapsing middle class and toxic internal divisions, remain. And Trump will bequeath new ills to his successor: a runaway pandemic, a struggling economy, burgeoning debt, a wounded democracy, and a diminished global reputation.

“Declinism,” or the belief that the United States is sliding irreversibly from its preeminent status, is tempting. But such fatalism would be misguided. The United States still retains enviable advantages: a young population, financial dominance, abundant resources, peaceful borders, strong alliances, and an innovative economy. Moreover, as Samuel Huntington wrote in Foreign Affairs decades ago, the United States possesses an unusual capacity for self-correction, with declinists ironically playing “an indispensable role in preventing what they are predicting.”

For the United States, decline is less a condition than a choice. The downward path runs through the country’s polarized political system, with an incoming Democratic president facing a deadlocked or narrowly Republican Senate. The path away from decline, meanwhile, may run through a rare area susceptible to bipartisan consensus: the need for the United States to rise to the China challenge. … … …


Rush Doshi, “The United States, China, and the Contest for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Prepared statement for hearing on “The China Challenge: Realignment of U.S. Economic Policies to Build Resiliency and Competitiveness,” Subcommittee on Security, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Washington, DC, 30 July 2020.

Chairman Sullivan, Ranking Member Markey, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing on the China challenge and efforts to build U.S. resiliency and competitiveness. As requested, I will be focusing my remarks on three subjects. First, I will discuss Beijing’s challenge to U.S. global technology leadership and its ambitions to dominate what it often refers to as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Second, I will discuss some of the challenges the United States faces in reshoring or diversifying supply chains presently based in China as well as in sustaining its technology leadership. Finally, I will offer recommendations for U.S. policy focusing on a few broad categories of effort: (1) information gathering; (2) government coordination; (3) immigration and basic science; (4) reforms of corporate and financial incentives; and (5) coordination with likeminded stakeholders. It is hoped that these policies might build long-term U.S. resilience and competitiveness as we enter what some call a “superpower marathon” with China. … … …


Rush Doshi, “China’s Role in India’s Hindu Nationalist Discourse,” Book chapter in Joint U.S.-Korea Academic Studies, June 2020, 117–34.

“Hindu nationalism risks pushing India into war with China,” blared the headline from China’s nationalist tabloid, Global Times.1 Meanwhile, in Washington, a wide-ranging network of analysts optimistic on U.S.-India ties similarly argue that India’s nationalist political forces will push the country further away from Beijing and likely closer to Washington. These are bold claims about the ways in which national identity will intersect with great power politics. But are they correct?

That question is now more urgent than ever. The Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) sweeping victory in the May 2019 elections shows that Hindu nationalism is the potent political force reshaping the country. But what role does China play in Hindu nationalist narratives, and how might those narratives affect China policy? This paper explores the various threads of Hindu nationalism and chronicles the relatively limited role that China plays within them. First, it explores the history of Hindu nationalism as a political force in India, demonstrating its tendency to view Islam – rather than the West or China – as the salient other. The key nationalist policy priorities for Hindu nationalists–including the introduction of a Uniform Civil Code that reduces sharia’s role in civil law, the repeal of Article 370 of India’s Constitution that protects Kashmir’s special status, and the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya on the grounds of what was once a mosque – are all issues that implicate Hindu relations with Islam. Second, after making the argument that Hindu nationalism is primarily focused on Islam, the paper then turns to analyzing China’s role in nationalist ideology. It argues that China plays a relatively limited and often contradictory role in nationalist discourse despite the increasingly contentious Sino-Indian relationship. Hindu nationalists view China through a variety of lenses – sovereignty, trade, and values – each of which produces a different perspective and precludes a singular, unified Hindu nationalist view of China.2 And in some areas, Hindu nationalists even admire Chinese approaches.

Despite China’s limited presence in nationalist narratives, among members of the Indian elite and bureaucracy concerns over China dating back to the annexation of Tibet and the 1962 Sino-Indian War are sharpening as China’s power grows. Even so, China’s continued support for Pakistan, its hardening position on the border, its standoffs with India like the one over Doklam, and its growing influence in South Asia appear to be elite rather than popular preoccupations. The Modi government has pursued a modestly more competitive policy with China than its predecessors, but for the most part it has balanced that approach with engagement and sought largely to build on the policies of previous governments – and this effort does not primarily flow from Hindu nationalist impulses. In contrast to countries like Vietnam, where nationalism often focuses externally on China, Hindu nationalism remains focused on an internal other.

Should Hindu nationalism gain greater political power – perhaps at the expense of the historically secular state bureaucracies that are increasingly concerned about China – it may create a modest opening for Beijing, which is less likely than the West to have concerns over India’s majoritarian turn, and may even provide it cover in international bodies on human rights questions. In this way, should the rise of Hindu nationalism and right-wing populism wash over the Indian state, it could inhibit rather than propel the kind of great power balancing that many in the West have long hoped for. … … …


Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, “The Coronavirus Could Reshape Global Order,” Foreign Affairs, 18 March 2020.

China Is Maneuvering for International Leadership as the United States Falters

With hundreds of millions of people now isolating themselves around the world, the novel coronavirus pandemic has become a truly global event. And while its geopolitical implications should be considered secondary to matters of health and safety, those implications may, in the long term, prove just as consequential—especially when it comes to the United States’ global position. Global orders have a tendency to change gradually at first and then all at once. In 1956, a botched intervention in the Suez laid bare the decay in British power and marked the end of the United Kingdom’s reign as a global power. Today, U.S. policymakers should recognize that if the United States does not rise to meet the moment, the coronavirus pandemic could mark another “Suez moment.” … … …


Rush Doshi, “China Steps Up Its Information War in Taiwan,” Foreign Affairs, 9 January 2020.

Taiwan’s Election Is a Test Run for Beijing’s Worldwide Propaganda Strategy

On January 11, Taiwanese voters will elect a new president and parliament. The election pits incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) against Han Kuo-yu, the mayor of the southern city of Kaohsiung, and his opposition Kuomintang (KMT). But the vote is about more than that. It is a battle over the island’s relationship with China—a contest between those advocating for more distance from the mainland and those calling for less.

Joining Tsai and Han in that contest is a third, unofficial contestant: Beijing. The Chinese government has undertaken a vast information influence campaign designed to support its favored candidates and sow distrust in Taiwan’s democracy.

China’s efforts go far beyond spreading disinformation and stale state propaganda. Beijing’s ambition is to shape the production, dissemination, and consumption of information in Taiwan. And as my colleagues and I argue in a forthcoming Brookings report, these efforts foreshadow a sophisticated strategy to influence every stage of the global information supply chain, from the people who produce content to the institutions that publish it and the platforms that deliver it directly to consumers. Democracies around the world should pay close attention to what happens in Taiwan’s election—for their own journalists, media companies, and platforms are fast becoming the focus of similar efforts by Beijing. … … …


Rush Doshi, “China’s Ten-Year Struggle against U.S. Financial Power,” Commentary, National Bureau of Asian Research, 6 January 2020.

This commentary examines China’s concern over U.S. financial power, efforts to blunt it, and focus on building Chinese financial power. It also considers emerging questions about the implications of digital currency for the existing monetary order.

China is a rising power that simultaneously faces the risk of confrontation with the U.S. hegemon and the risk of encirclement by wary neighbors. This structural situation has long shaped its international economic and financial strategies.

To deal with the United States, China has pursued a ten-year blunting strategy against U.S. financial power dating back to the global financial crisis, albeit with mixed success. It has supported monetary diversification, the creation of parallel interbank messaging systems, and bilateral swap agreements to gradually reduce its vulnerability to U.S. financial sanctions. To deal with its neighbors, China has pursued building strategies to enhance its financial leverage over them. It also has promoted the renminbi regionally—anchored primarily by trade flows but increasingly by the Belt and Road Initiative and attendant financial institutions and infrastructure investments—as a way to increase Chinese financial power in East Asia. And now China may have an opportunity to take its financial ambitions globally. With the issuance of its own digital currency, it may seek to ride a disruptive wave of financial innovation to simultaneously blunt U.S. financial advantages and build its own.


Financial power is structural, allowing a state to shape the framework in which economic activity takes place and thereby change another state’s behavior. The dollar’s centrality to global finance has allowed Washington to turn foreign banks into instruments of U.S. policy and cut off Iran and North Korea from the global financial system, even though the United States has limited bilateral economic ties with both countries. Similarly, U.S. influence over global payments, sovereign credit ratings, arbitral bodies, and other institutions provides structural leverage.

China has long had objections to U.S. structural power in international finance. The reasons are likely not purely economic: a significant decline in the value of the dollar would in fact damage China’s exports and reduce the value of its enormous holdings of dollar-denominated assets.[1] Nor are they purely about national identity: China’s call for a reduced role for the dollar has not generally been accompanied by any chest-beating nationalist rhetoric about China’s status or even a greater role for the renminbi.

Instead, China’s concerns are motivated by the implications of U.S. structural power. For example, as the former president of the Export-Import Bank of China, Li Ruogu, has noted, the dollar’s power is dangerous to China: “the U.S. used this method [manipulation of the dollar] to topple Japan’s economy, and it wants to use this method to curb China’s development.”[2] Chinese leaders believe that they need to blunt and bypass this U.S. power, and Li has asserted that “only by eliminating the U.S. dollar’s monopolistic position” would it be possible to reform the international monetary system.[3]

Since the onset of the U.S.-China trade war, these concerns have become more acute. They increasingly point to the U.S.-Japan Plaza Accord as a cautionary tale of the ways U.S. financial advantages could harm China. And as Julian Gewirtz has noted, even mainstream Chinese economic and financial officials now regularly invoke concerns about “financial war” with the United States.[4] … … …


Ely Ratner, Daniel Kliman, Susanna Blume, Rush Doshi, Chris Dougherty, Richard Fontaine, Peter Harrell, Martijn Rasser, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Eric Sayers, Daleep Singh, Paul Scharre, and Loren DeJonge Schulman; with Neil Bhatiya, Ashley Feng, Joshua Fitt, Megan Lamberth, Kristine Lee, and Ainikki Riikonen; Rising to the China Challenge: Renewing American Competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, December 2019).

The United States and China are locked in strategic competition over the future of the Indo-Pacific—the most populous, dynamic, and consequential region in the world. At stake are competing visions for the rules, norms, and institutions that will govern international relations in the decades to come.1

The U.S. government aspires toward a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, defined by respect for sovereignty and the independence of nations, peaceful resolution of disputes, free and fair trade, adherence to international law, and greater transparency and good governance.2 For the United States, successful realization of this regional order would include strong U.S. alliances and security partnerships; a military able to operate throughout the region, consistent with international law; U.S. firms with access to leading markets, and benefiting from updated technology standards, investment rules, and trade agreements; U.S. participation in effective regional and international institutions; and the spread of democracy and individual freedoms in the context of an open information environment and vibrant civil society.3

By contrast, China is driving toward a more closed and illiberal future for the Indo-Pacific, core aspects of which would undermine vital U.S. interests.4 Key features of China-led order would include the People’s Liberation Army controlling the South and East China Seas; regional countries sufficiently coerced into acquiescing to China’s preferences on military, economic, and diplomatic matters; an economic order in which Beijing sets trade and investment rules in its favor, with dominance over leading technologies, data, and standards; and Beijing with de facto rule over Taiwan and agenda-setting power over regional institutions. The order would be further characterized by weak civil society, a dearth of independent media, and the gradual spread of authoritarianism, reinforced by the proliferation of China’s high-tech surveillance state. The net result would be a less secure, less prosperous United States that is less able to exert power and influence in the world.5

Ultimately, the competition between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific is a contest over which of these futures will come closer to fruition, even as neither is likely to attain in its entirety. In the two years since the 2017 National Security Strategy and 2018 National Defense Strategy aptly identified this competition over the regional order in Asia, the U.S. government has taken initial steps toward its goal of a free and open region. On balance, however, critical areas of U.S. policy remain inconsistent, uncoordinated, under-resourced, and—to be blunt uncompetitive and counterproductive to advancing U.S. values and interests.

This independent assessment—mandated by the U.S. Congress in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act—is intended to help close the considerable gap between the current administration’s stated aspirations for a free and open Indo-Pacific and the actual implementation of policies to advance that vision. Specifically, Congress called for “an assessment of the geopolitical conditions in the Indo-Pacific region that are necessary for the successful implementation of the National Defense Strategy,” with a particular focus on how to “support United States military requirements for forward defense, assured access, extensive forward basing, and alliance and partnership formation and strengthening in such region.”6

This report examines how the U.S. government as a whole, not just the Department of Defense, can realize these outcomes. Although the focus of this assessment is on the Indo-Pacific, it is critical to underscore that the China challenge is a global phenomenon, and many of the actions recommended in this report should be taken to bolster U.S. competitiveness beyond the region. Consistent with the bipartisan mission of the Center for a New American Security, the report’s authors have collectively served on both sides of the aisle in Congress and in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump at the White House, State Department, Defense Department, Treasury Department, Central Intelligence Agency, and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Included herein are nearly a hundred specific and actionable policy recommendations across critical vectors of American competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific. Before turning to these recommendations, the remainder of this section describes six core principles that undergird the assessment and should form the foundations of U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. … … …


Rush DoshiJudith G. Kelley and Beth A. Simmons, “The Power of Ranking: The Ease of Doing Business Indicator and Global Regulatory Behavior,” International Organization 73.3 (Summer 2019): 611–43.

We argue that the World Bank has successfully marshaled the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Index to amass considerable influence over business regulations worldwide. The Ease of Doing is a global performance indicator (GPI), and GPIs—especially those that rate and rank states against one another—are intended to package information to influence the views of an audience important to the target, such as foreign investors or voters, thus generating pressures that induce a change in the target’s behavior. The World Bank has succeeded in shaping the global regulatory environment even though the bank has no explicit mandate over regulatory policy and despite questions about EDB accuracy and required policy tradeoffs. We show that the EDB has a dominating market share among business climate indicators. We then use media analyses and observational data to show that EDB has motivated state regulatory shifts. States respond to being publicly ranked and some restructure bureaucracies accordingly. Next we explore plausible influence channels for the EDB ranking and use an experiment involving US portfolio managers to build on existing economics research and examine whether the rankings influence investor sentiment within the experiment. Using a case study of India’s multiyear interagency effort to rise in the EDB rankings, as well as its decision to create subnational EDB rankings, we bring the strands of the argument together by showing how politicians see the ranking as affecting domestic politics, altering investor sentiment, and engaging bureaucratic reputation. Overall, a wide variety of evidence converges to illustrate the pressures through which the World Bank has used state rankings to achieve its vision of regulatory reform. … … …


Daniel Kliman, Rush Doshi, Kristine Lee, and Zack Cooper, Grading China’s Belt and Road (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, April 2019).

Since its launch in 2013, what China calls “One Belt, One Road” has emerged as the cornerstone of Beijing’s economic statecraft. Under the umbrella of the Belt and Road, Beijing seeks to promote a more connected world brought together by a web of Chinese-funded physical and digital infrastructure. The infrastructure needs in Asia and beyond are significant, but the Belt and Road is more than just an economic initiative; it is a central tool for advancing China’s geopolitical ambitions. Through the economic activities bundled under the Belt and Road, Beijing is pursuing a vision of the 21st century defined by great power spheres of influence, state-directed economic interactions, and creeping authoritarianism.1

As Beijing prepares to host the second Belt and Road Forum in late April 2019, countries that once welcomed Chinese investment have become increasingly vocal about the downsides. This report is intended to serve as a resource for governments, corporations, journalists, and civil society groups now re-evaluating the costs and benefits of Belt and Road projects. Building on previous research by the Center for a New American Security and other institutions,2 this report provides a high-level overview of the primary challenges associated with China’s Belt and Road. It explores these challenges in the context of 10 cases that have received little high-profile attention and identifies future concerns generated by the Belt and Road’s growing digital focus. Lastly, the report puts forward a checklist for evaluating future infrastructure projects involving China. … … …


Rush Doshi, “China’s Role in Reshaping the International Financial Architecture: Blunting U.S. Power and Building Regional Order,” in Ashley J. Tellis, Alison Szalwinski, and Michael Wills, eds., Strategic Asia 2019: China’s Expanding Strategic Ambitions (Seattle, WA: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2019).

This chapter in the 2019 edition of Strategic Asia explores the strategic foundations of China’s efforts to reshape the international financial architecture. It argues that China faces the dual risk of conflict with the United States and encirclement by wary neighbors, factors which together influence its international financial strategy. To deal with the United States, China has pursued strategies to blunt U.S. financial power through support for monetary diversification and the creation of parallel payment and credit rating institutions — all of which reduce its vulnerability to U.S. financial coercion. To deal with its neighbors, China has pursued strategies to build financial leverage over them. It has promoted a renminbi zone, new financial institutions, and infrastructure investment that together foster asymmetric interdependence.

The rise of China marks the first time in centuries that the world’s largest economy will not be English-speaking, Western, democratic, liberal, or market-driven. The country’s security anxieties as a rising power—one that faces both the risk of confrontation with the U.S. hegemon and the risk of encirclement by wary neighbors—will shape its international economic and financial strategies. To deal with the U.S., China has pursued blunting strategies against U.S. financial power. It has supported monetary diversification and the creation of parallel payment and credit rating institutions to reduce its vulnerability to U.S. financial sanctions. To deal with its neighbors, China has pursued building strategies to enhance its financial leverage over them. It has promoted a renminbi zone, new financial institutions, and infrastructure investment that together foster asymmetric interdependence.


  • In the short term, China’s efforts to build constraining leverage over its neighbors could lay the foundation for a sphere of influence unless the U.S. both re-engages regional multilateral economic processes and multilateralizes some of China’s own bilateral efforts such as the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Over the medium term, China’s efforts to duplicate the substructure of the international financial system may provide sanctioned states an opportunity to escape U.S. financial pressure while reducing Chinese vulnerability to U.S. financial sanctions.
  • Over the long term, China’s effort to promote monetary diversification, bypass the dollar, and promote its own currency and payments systems also could reduce its vulnerability to U.S. financial sanctions.


Rush Doshi, “Hu’s to Blame For China’s Foreign Assertiveness?” Brookings Institution, 22 January 2019.

As Sino-American ties descend to a new post-Cold War low, Western analysts increasingly place the blame on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aggressive international activism. But to what degree is this muscular foreign policy the product of one man versus the larger system in which he is embedded?

This is a question of profound importance to bilateral ties. Too often, analysts over-personalize China’s foreign policy by contrasting a supposedly weak and timid Hu administration with a bold and striving Xi administration. But the reality is far more complex, and Xi’s power consolidation and cult of personality is overshadowing important ways in which his foreign policy exhibits continuity with past trends.

The link between Hu and Xi’s foreign policy has meaningful policy stakes. Widening the lens with which we view present Chinese foreign policy helps bring into focus a strategy that appears to enjoy a high-level consensus among Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials. Many aspects of an increasingly assertive Chinese policy that the United States finds disagreeable are not “bugs” introduced by Xi’s unique power consolidation and aggressiveness but enduring “features” of that consensus. … … …


Markus Brunnermeier, Rush Doshi, and Harold James, “Beijing’s Bismarckian Ghosts: How Great Powers Compete Economically,” The Washington Quarterly 41.3 (2018):16176.

This article shows that great power economic rivalry is nothing new, and that the Anglo-German economic contest a century ago holds eerie parallels to today’s U.S.-China rivalry.

The article is summarized below with nine key points.


This article argues that the economic rivalry between China and the United States in the twenty-first century holds an uncanny resemblance to the one between Germany and Great Britain in the nineteenth. Both rivalries take place amidst economic interdependence and explosive innovation; both feature a rising autocracy with a state-protected economic system challenging an established democracy with a free-market economic system; and both go beyond tariffs to feature great powers using standard-setting, technology theft, financial power, and infrastructure investment for strategic advantage. Indeed, for these very reasons, the Anglo-German duel can serve as a useful guide for policymakers seeking to understand the dynamics of the emerging Sino-American economic competition.


  1. There are important parallels between the Anglo-German and Sino-American cases: Both rivalries take place amidst economic interdependence and explosive innovation. Both feature a rising autocracy with a state-protected economic system challenging an established democracy with a free-market economic system. And both go way beyond tariffs.
  2. Great power economic competition has historically gone beyond tariffs: Even a century ago, great power economic competition also included standard setting, technology theft, financial power, and infrastructure investment. This is a lesson that the United States would do well to relearn.
  3. The roots of rivalry can be found in political and economic regime type: As in today’s rivalry, regime type amplified economic competition and anxiety. Laissez-faire Great Britain felt cheated by the state-protected developmentalism of a rising Germany, which eventually led to British tariffs and only amplified Berlin’s distrust.
  4. Standard-setting mattered a century ago and still matters today: Today’s struggles over Huawei and ZTE have precedent in Britain’s monopoly on that era’s ICT (telegraphy). Germany feared British control over international messages, built a rival system, & used international institutions to undermine the standards supporting British ICT dominance.
  5. Great powers engage in technology theft: China’s technology theft has corollaries in Germany’s efforts to copy many of Britain’s best practices and technology, though no German effort comes close to China’s Made in China 2025 in scope and ambition.
  6. Finance has long been a key instrument of coercion: The United States and Britain dominated international finance, which offered leverage over their rising power rivals. For their part, China and Germany intentionally worked to undermine that financial power to enhance their freedom of maneuver.
  7. Infrastructure investments have historically been used to reshape strategic geography: Germany and China were continental powers vulnerable to established maritime powers that controlled vital sea lanes. Germany sought a Berlin-Baghdad railway and China is pursuing a Belt and Road—both reshape strategic geography and bypass rival navies.
  8. Protectionism and blunt-force tariffs can drive one’s allies to one’s adversaries: Threatened by German exports, Britain adopted tariffs that drove small European states into German arms and weakened Britain’s strategic position. The US risks alienating Asia’s swing states the same way today.
  9. What Washington Needs to Learn from the Anglo-German Example: Great power economic competition is subtle and sophisticated, often patient and long-term, and rarely emotional and reactive. Washington needs to go beyond tariffs. The United States should work with allies to strengthen rules, set standards, punish theft, fund research, safeguard financial power, and build infrastructure. China is playing a good hand well, but the United States and its allies have an even better one—but only if they work together.

This article argues that the Anglo-German economic contest a century ago holds eerie parallels to today’s U.S.-China rivalry.  Both rivalries take place amidst economic interdependence and explosive innovation. Both feature a rising autocracy with a state-protected economic system challenging an established democracy with a free-market economic system. And importantly, both go way beyond tariffs: then as now, great power economic competition involved standard setting, technology theft, financial coercion, and infrastructure investment. This multifaceted approach to great power economic rivalry is one that the United States must relearn as competition with China intensifies.

Great power competition is back. As China and the United States ramp up their strategic rivalry, the search is on for a vision of what their evolving great power competition will look like in a globalized and interconnected world. The looming trade war and ongoing technology competition between Washington and Beijing suggest that economics may now be the central battlefield in the bilateral contest. Much of the abundant literature on great power competition and grand strategy focuses on military affairs, and little of it prepares us for what economic and technological competition among great powers looks like, let alone how it will be waged. But great power economic competition is nothing new. Indeed, the rivalry between China and the United States in the twenty-first century holds an uncanny resemblance to the one between Germany and Great Britain in the nineteenth. Both rivalries take place amidst the emergence of economic globalization and explosive technological innovation. Both feature a rising autocracy with a state-protected economic system challenging an established democracy with a free-market economic system. And both rivalries feature countries enmeshed in profound interdependence wielding tariff threats, standard-setting, technology theft, financial power, and infrastructure investment for advantage.


Rush Doshi, Dhruva Jaishankar, and Adrianna Pita, “How India and China are Reshaping Their Neighborhood,” Podcast, Brookings Institution, 26 September 2018.

In this episode, Dhruva Jaishankar, fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings India, and Rush Doshi, post-doctoral fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings, discuss the balance of power across the Indo-Pacific as China’s influence grows and India seeks to increase economic connectivity and strengthen security relationships.


Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi, “Strategic Providence and the American Journey in Asia,” in “Book Review Roundtable: Michael J. Green’s By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783,” Asia Policy 13.3 (July 2018): 127–53.

This piece reviews Mike Green’s By More than Providence. First, it explores Green’s claim that U.S. Asia strategy has historically focused on preventing the region from falling under the hegemonic control of others. Second, it applies Green’s intriguing finding that effective Asia strategy has relied less on power than on clarity of purpose and coordination of instruments to the Trump administrations Asia strategy. It notes that while the administration has shown greater clarity on the China challenge, its has struggled to implement consistent strategy despite the determined efforts of its Asia hands.

Michael Green’s By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 is a magisterial work, well-argued and exhaustively researched, that provides an invaluable service for those who care about U.S. Asia policy. Indeed, no other book in nearly a century has sought to study so intently the broad sweep of U.S. grand strategy in Asia since the founding of the republic. As U.S. foreign policy experts currently grapple with the implications of a risen China and debate the way forward in Asia, Green’s historical treatment generates unique and original insights rooted in the past but relevant for the present. His survey of the United States’ Asia strategy in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries should form part of the foundation for considering Asia strategy in this century. In scope and ambition, By More Than Providence helps anyone seeking to understand how the United States has grappled with Asia from the revolutionary period through the Cold War and the war on terrorism.

The book is divided into four parts, each covering the rise of a different power. The first part focuses on the rise of the United States and the second, third, and fourth on the rise of Japan, the Soviet Union, and China, respectively. The structure, which is both thematic and chronological, works well. Within each of these four parts, Green explores U.S. grand strategy, its adjustment to a shifting balance of power, and its ultimate effectiveness. Some of the book’s most fascinating insights are in its history up through the end of the Cold War.

For most states, and especially for democracies, grand strategy is a challenging endeavor. Green’s central argument, however, is that despite occasional inconsistencies and inevitable missteps, the United States has over the last two centuries developed a “distinctive strategic approach” toward the Asia-Pacific. In his view, “the United States has emerged as the preeminent power in the Pacific not by providence alone but through the effective (if not always efficient) application of military, diplomatic, economic, and ideational tools of national power to the problems of Asia” (p. 4).


Rush Doshi, “Xi Jinping Just Made It Clear Where China’s Foreign Policy Is Headed,” The Monkey Cage, Washington Post, 25 October 2017.

Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the country’s 19th Party Congress last week with a three-hour, 30,000-word political report before 2,000 party leaders. Held once every five years, the Party Congress is China’s most authoritative institution, and the president’s “Political Report” is always a significant event.

The report discusses the work of the past five years, determines priorities for the next five years and sets the “Party line” on major policy issues — including foreign policy. Xi’s Political Report at this Congress was uniquely important because it gave fuller expression to the core tenets of “Xi Jinping Thought,” a doctrine that the party enshrined in its constitution Tuesday — thereby elevating Xi to the status of paramount leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.

The Political Report rarely presages dramatic breaks in the country’s foreign relations. It can, however, help clarify signals and noise from past foreign policy behavior by giving clues about which underlying trends in Chinese foreign policy matter most and will endure into the future.

Compared to the previous Political Report his predecessor, Hu Jintao, delivered in 2012, Xi’s speech offered a subtle but significant shift, particularly in these three areas:

  1. China’s great power plans for “National Rejuvenation”

Chinese leaders have long bemoaned their country’s “Century of Humiliation,” which spans from China’s 1839 defeat in the Opium Wars to the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Xi promised to achieve the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and restore China to its rightful great power status by 2049 — the centennial of the PRC’s founding.

Xi’s Political Report included the phrase “great rejuvenation” 27 times — compared with just seven mentions in Hu’s 2012 speech. Xi also used more specific language, offering a multistage plan to achieve rejuvenation across three time periods: 2020, 2035 and 2050. For example, within the military realm, he proposed that China’s army would complete mechanization by 2020, modernization by 2035 and would evolve into “a world-class army by 2050.” … … …


Patrick M. Cronin, Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper, Harry Krejsa, Alex Sullivan, and Rush Doshi, Beyond the San Hai: The Challenge of China’s Blue-Water Navy (Washington, DC: Center for a New American Security, May 2017). 

Executive Summary

The United States has enjoyed largely uncontested naval supremacy across the blue waters, or open oceans, for decades. The rapid emergence of an increasingly global People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) suggests that this era will soon come to a close. China’s ability to conduct power projection and amphibious operations around the world will become a fundamental fact of politics in the near future, with significant consequences for the United States and its allies, all of which need to begin preparing for a “risen China” rather than a “rising China,” especially in the realm of maritime security. China’s expanding naval capabilities have implications that are

difficult to grasp, and more importantly, consequences that will be impossible to ignore, and it is therefore all the more necessary for U.S. and allied planners to reckon with it now. This study has resulted in several key judgments and recommendations for policymakers.

Key Judgements

China will be a Blue-Water Naval Power by 2030: China is rapidly transforming itself from a continental power with a focus on its near seas to a great maritime power with a two-ocean focus. The PLAN is looking beyond the san hai – the Yellow Sea, South China Sea, and East China Sea – and out toward the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

China seeks Military Influence in the Indian Ocean

Region (IOR): China’s dependence on energy and commodity flows transiting the IOR gives it large interests in maintaining the region’s maritime trade routes and political stability. China so far has prosecuted these interests through diplomacy and massive infrastructure development – notably the “One Belt, One Road” initiative – but it seeks military influence, too. Its dual-use port projects, construction of a military base in Djibouti, and increasing deployments to the region strongly suggest it will become a military power in the IOR by 2030.

A Global PLAN Offers Possibilities for Cooperation and Competition: The United States and China will have new opportunities to cooperate, especially in the Indian Ocean and Middle East, on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, anti-piracy, and similar missions. Cooperation is unlikely to transfer from the Indian Ocean into China’s near seas, where China has strong territorial interests. Conversely, competition potentially could spread from China’s near seas into the Indian Ocean, where China fears U.S. interdiction of Indian Ocean trade and horizontal escalation of a Sino-American conflict.

China’s New Capabilities Will Increase Allied Abandonment Fears: China’s anti access/area-denial capabilities already give it influence in near-seas conflicts over the South China Sea, East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait. When these are combined with China’s growing blue-water power projection and amphibious capabilities, China will obtain sharp advantages in near-seas conflicts relative to U.S. allies and partners. Absent U.S. measures, this development could increase abandonment fears in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan that cause redundant investments, defense strategies inimical to U.S. interests, and even conflict.

Future Trends in Sino-American Blue-Water Rivalry: As China and the United States compete over blue waters, cyber space is likely to be an important frontier. With a larger global presence, the United States is more vulnerable to cyber competition than China.

Key Recommendations

Take Seriously China’s Maritime Challenge: China’s anti-access/area-denial capabilities already have jeopardized the U.S. presence in East Asia, and its blue-water capabilities threaten to open new arenas for maritime competition. The new administration should take these capabilities seriously; understand that they will profoundly reshape global politics and potentially globalize U.S.-China security competition; and revise wargames and strategic planning to address a global PLAN.

Respond to China’s Manipulation of the Balance of Risk: China’s risk-acceptant behavior has given Beijing certain strategic advantages in dealing with a risk-averse United States. To address this asymmetry, and to ensure U.S. presence does not become subject to Chinese invitation, the United States should stop preannouncing freedom-of-navigation operations, continue conducting carrier operations within the First Island Chain, and adopt a permanent warship presence in the South China Sea. Invest in U.S. Maritime Capabilities: The United States should ensure that American blue-water naval and joint force capabilities are of sufficient size and quality to compete with China’s naval expansion. With the PLAN approaching 500 ships by 2030, the U.S. Navy should move toward a minimum of 350. Requisite Marine, Air Force, and Army capabilities essential to maritime joint force missions should be strengthened.

Maintain and Diversify Forward-Deployed U.S. Military Forces in Asia: Committing to the U.S. forward-deployed position in Asia reassures allies, deters China, and ensures influence over important sea lanes. To strengthen this position, the United States could home-port additional vessels in Guam and South Korea. It also should diversify its posture southward to the IOR by upgrading Diego Garcia and by pursuing new rotational agreements with Australia and India, among others.

Adapt and Advance U.S. Alliances and Partnerships: To address allied anxieties, the United States should continue regular consultations with allies, strengthen its forward-deployed presence, and encourage allies to burden-share. Alliances can be strengthened by encouraging greater connectivity and interoperability between allies and partners. Finally, expanding cooperation and security dialogues to IOR partner states, especially India, will help the United States shape China’s blue-water behavior.

Find Areas of Cooperation: The United States should seek opportunities to cooperate with a global PLAN on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, anti-piracy, and similar missions. In pursuing these opportunities, the United States should endeavor to include Australia, India, Japan, and other Asian states so such initiatives are not purely bilateral. Join and Strengthen Multilateral Institutions: To channel China’s energies into constructive multilateral security cooperation, the United States should engage multilateral organizations, including Chinese initiatives such as One Belt, One Road as well as non-Chinese initiatives in the IOR and East Asia.


Daniel Alderman and Rush Doshi, “Civil-Military Integration Potential in Chinese Shipbuilding,” in Andrew S. Erickson, ed., Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: An Ambitious and Uncertain Course (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016), 144–66.

This chapter, which appeared in the Naval Institute Press book Chinese Naval Shipbuilding, explored the ways in which Beijing has sought to integrate civilian and military shipbuilding technology as it expands the People’s Liberation Army Navy. It first examines central-level policy directives on civil-military integration in shipbuilding, demonstrating how the government views civilian shipbuilding as financially and technologically essential for military shipbuilding. The second section focuses on examples of actual diffusion from the commercial to the military shipbuilding sector in three areas: shipyards and relevant infrastructure, ship design and production, and sub-components and systems integration.

In 2007, Hu Jintao, then General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), included the phrase “military-civilian fusion” (MCF) in his annual CCP Work Report.1 Hu’s use of the phrase was a major landmark in the continued development of China’s civil-military integration (CMI), a broader term of art used to describe the Chinese government’s continued attempts to strike the optimal balance between civilian and defense economies and their overlapping ecosystems.

MCF is frequently presented as a groundbreaking achievement in cur- rent chairman Xi Jinping’s plans for the future of the Chinese defense industry and economy. It is a constant presence in Chinese science and technology policies, defense industrial documents, and even China’s most important planning document, the Eighteenth Party Congress Third Plenum announcement. However, this most recent push for an improved balance between civilian and military resources is only one phase in a multidecade campaign. Every Chinese leader has promoted his own version of improved CMI, dating back to Mao Zedong himself, who in 1956 stated the importance of better focusing on “handling military and civilian affairs together” (军民兼顾).2

This chapter addresses China’s plans for and implementation of CMI in the shipbuilding industry. It analyzes how contributions from and interaction with the civilian/commercial shipbuilding industry are regarded by Chinese sources, and, where possible, how they actually stimulate or inhibit China’s naval shipbuilding modernization.3 The chapter is divided into two sections: the first focuses on central-level policy on CMI in shipbuilding, and the second on diffusion of infrastructure, methods, and technology from the civilian to the military sector.

With respect to central policy, we note that China’s leading defense ship- builders rely on the commercial sector for as much as 90 percent of their revenue. With the shipbuilding industry in the doldrums and capacity utilization at 50 percent (down from 75 percent five years ago), the government has issued a new shipbuilding plan to rescue the industry. This plan relies significantly on CMI. An analysis of its guidelines suggests two policy elements: the government views civilian shipbuilding as essential to and intertwined with military shipbuilding, and therefore is willing to support it; and it expects shipyard infrastructure, manufacturing processes, and technology to flow from the civilian to the military sectors (and vice versa). We also note that China has “white-listed” sixty of the country’s several hundred shipyards for public support. An analysis of these white-listed yards shows that nearly all of China’s military shipyards, its newest and most advanced yards, and its China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) yards made the list.

The second section focuses on diffusion from the commercial to the military shipbuilding sectors in three areas: shipyards and relevant infrastructure, ship design and production, and subcomponents and systems integration. Chinese CMI arguably has the least potential in shipyard infrastructure.4 Although advanced civilian moving equipment and docks are dual-use, collocation of civilian and military production is challenging and, depending on its implementation, could even hamstring China’s military shipbuilding industry. Diffusion has been moderately successful in ship design and advanced production methods, where some technologies and engineering knowledge used in civilian production can transfer to the military side, though specific applications often differ. We demonstrate this in part by surveying civil-military computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology diffusion and modular construction methods.5 Finally, diffusion has been least successful in systems integration and subcomponent design, in part because domestic Chinese civilian companies lack sufficient technological know-how and access to formal People’s Liberation Army defense technology requirements information. Across all domains, we note continued dependence on foreign technology acquisition, despite policy pressures emphasizing domestic enterprises, especially in subcomponent manufacturing. … … …


Rush Doshi and David Walter, “China’s Rising Tide in the Caribbean,” Wall Street Journal, 1 October 2013, A15.

Beijing’s study of the Soviet Union’s strategy in the islands is paying dividends.

Most American vacationers see the Caribbean as a place for sun and sand, not for geopolitical struggle. But that may change as Beijing ramps up its global power ambitions. As U.S. strategic interest in the Americas wanes, China has lavished money and attention on the Caribbean’s island nations, muddying the waters in what has long been “America’s Lake.”

In June, for instance, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Trinidad and Tobago to court the leaders of 10 Caribbean countries. He came bearing some $3 billion in development loans, a hefty sum for a tiny region.

At first, such largess seems straight out of China’s standard developing-world playbook: From Africa to South America, Beijing has perfected the art of buying off governments, often to win natural resources for Chinese factories or to steal sovereign recognition from Taiwan.

But China’s Caribbean involvement is far from business as usual. The combined Caribbean economy is no larger than that of Kansas, and only a handful of its countries—Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago—possess exportable resources of note. A few Caribbean microstates, such as St. Lucia and St. Kitts and Nevis, recognize Taiwan, but China stopped courting these states five years ago amid a Beijing-Taipei detente.

The best way to understand China’s Caribbean courtship is to consider the last distant power to have designs on the region: the Soviet Union. Today the Caribbean is regarded as a strategic and economic backwater by Washington. But the Soviets saw—and Beijing sees—something different: an American vulnerability.

Until it collapsed in 1991, the Soviet Union viewed the Caribbean through a military-strategic lens. Moscow knew the Panama Canal was essential for moving U.S. naval vessels from the Atlantic to the Pacific. U.S. oil imports arrived at Gulf of Mexico refineries via Caribbean waterways. In the event of war, the Soviets reasoned they could disrupt these transportation lines, harm the U.S. economy, and distract attention from Europe.

In the early 1960s, the Soviets set out to foment military coups, invest liberally in regional relationships, and move naval assets to the Caribbean. To further project its power, Moscow established proxy airstrips in Grenada, surveillance facilities in Central America, even a secret submarine base in Cuba. These investments led U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick to warn in 1981 that “the Soviet Union has become a major military power within the Western hemisphere.”

Beijing’s analysts studied the Soviet Union’s Caribbean strategy in the 1980s, writing that “Soviet expansion posed a threat to [Caribbean] sea lines” and helped “contain U.S. strategy.” China and the U.S. are not in a Cold War. But Beijing’s recent Caribbean push does revive the Soviet strategy to project power. The difference is that Beijing has greater tolerance for the long game and emphasizes economic and legal instruments of statecraft instead of Soviet-style military assistance and coups. …

China’s assistance is a long-term strategic investment, and it can buy low and sell high since Caribbean influence is relatively cheap. State-owned China Communications Construction Co. already plans to build a mammoth commercial port in Jamaica over the next decade. Later on, China could establish surveillance facilities or sign naval-access agreements, as it has with Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean and Pakistan in South Asia. In times of crisis, China could use the Caribbean to draw U.S. attention away from Asia and Beijing’s own maritime backyard, the South China Sea.

Moreover, China knows that island states have outsize political influence in international organizations where even the smallest countries carry the same weight. Jamaica is home to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which regulates mining access to seafloors in international waters—and the billions of dollars of rare-earth minerals believed to be buried there.

China currently produces more than 95% of all rare-earth minerals, and to retain its dominance in the market hopes to become a leader in deep-sea mining. Not coincidentally, China has given aid to Jamaica and several other Caribbean states sitting on ISA committees that award contracts and write regulations for deep-sea mining.

China has also invested in Caribbean microstates in hopes of winning their votes in other organizations such as the United Nations. These states can and do provide support for Chinese positions on human rights, Taiwan and, increasingly, territorial disputes as far away as the South China Sea. … … …