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China's Emerging National Security Interests and Their Impact on the People's Liberation Army

By Murray Scot Tanner and Peter W. Mackenzie
DOI: 10.56686/9780991158874


As China’s security interests expand and its power grows, it may increasingly have to choose between a long-range calculation that it should avoid angering its neighbors in the region and a short-term desire to display its newly won capacity to defend its interests and assert its power. Drawing on our analysis, we see themes that indicate growing support for China to pursue what we might call “defensive expansion” of China’s presence and influence in Asia, including its military presence and influence. Underlying this support for defensive expansion we see three themes recurring throughout China’s debates over its emerging interests. First, that China’s security community sees its emerging national security interests as increasingly indispensable to China’s future development and power. Second, that China sees many of these interests as increasingly vulnerable or at risk from both traditional and nontraditional threats. And third, that China portrays itself as having exercised much greater restraint in asserting and protecting its interests than many of its neighbors.

Murray Scot Tanner is a senior research scientist in the China Studies Division at CNA Corporation. Dr. Tanner has published widely on Chinese and East Asian politics and on military and security issues. His books, monographs, and reports include Distracted Antagonists, Wary Partners: China and India Assess their Security Relations (2011); China Confronts Afghan Drugs: Law Enforcement Views of “The Golden Crescent” (2011); Chinese Economic Coercion Against Taiwan: A Tricky Weapon to Use (2007); and The Politics of Lawmaking in Post-Mao China: Institutions, Processes, and Democratic Prospects (1999). He is also coauthor of A Question of Balance: Political Context and Military Aspects of the China-Taiwan Dispute (2009), and Chinese Responses to U.S. Military Transformation and Implications for the Department of Defense (2006). His articles and book chapters, which have appeared in such journals as The Washington Quarterly, Comparative Politics, The China Quarterly, and The China Journal, include “The Missions of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force” (Richard P. Hallion et al., eds., The Chinese Air Force: Evolving Concepts, Roles, and Capabilities, 2012), and “The Evolution of Chinese Maritime Strategy: Continental Roots of China’s Maritime Expansion” (The National Maritime Foundation, ed., China as a Maritime Power [forthcoming]). Before joining CNA, Dr. Tanner served as a professor of Chinese and East Asian politics at Western Michigan University, as a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation, and as the cochair’s senior staff member for the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He holds a PhD in political science, and bachelor’s degrees in political science, East Asian languages and literature, and Asian studies from the University of Michigan.


Peter Mackenzie works for Interpeace—an independent, international peacebuilding organization and a strategic partner of the United Nations—as the senior program officer for the Somali Region Democratization Programme. Prior to joining Interpeace, Mackenzie served as an Asia security analyst in the China Studies Division at CNA, where he was author or coauthor of numerous studies on China and its military-security policy and international relations, including Behind the Periscope: Leadership in China’s Navy (2013), Red Crosses, Blue Water: Hospital Ships and China’s Expanding Naval Presence (2011), A Closer Look at China-Iran Relations (2010), and The Sino-Soviet Border Conflict: Deterrence, Escalation, and the Threat of Nuclear War in 1969 (2010). He has also worked on China and/or African affairs for the National Committee on United States–China Relations, the International Republican Institute (IRI), where he was IRI’s East African office director based in Nairobi, Kenya, and for the Atlantic Council of the United States. Mackenzie holds a master’s degree in public policy and administration from Columbia University, and a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies from Williams College. He studied Mandarin Chinese at Capital Normal University in Beijing and the Harbin Institute of Technology, and has taught English at the Sun Yat-sen University of Medical Sciences in Guangzhou.


Chapter 1: China’s Evolving Concept of Its National Security Interests
Chapter 2: Six Arenas of Emerging Security Interests.
Chapter 3: Implications for the PLA
Appendix One
Appendix Two

6 x 9
154 pages
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