China’s 9 Principles for Replacing America as the Global Superpower

Keep that in mind during the escalating tariff war … there’s a higher purpose. 


One of my summer reads has been The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury.


Pillsbury is a bona fide China expert, having served 8 administrations in a variety of high-level positions in the state and defense departments and having worked for heralded think tanks, including RAND and the Hudson Institute.

Note: To me, the guy seems very credible since (a) he footnotes every major point with compelling source documentation, and (b) he is very self-effacing – often pointing out the mistakes that he had made in his China analyses.

As the title indicates, Pillsbury concludes that China is about midway through a 100-year strategy to replace the U.S. as the global superpower…


The 9 Guiding Principles

To provide an overall framework, Pillsbury concludes that China’s strategy is based on 9 guiding principles that are fundamental to Chinese history and that reflect learnings from other countries’ strategic successes and mis-steps.

Note: I’ve taken some liberties to paraphrase, streamline and supplement Pillsbury’s 9 principles … while preserving their essence and intent.  In subsequent posts, I’ll dig a little deeper into a couple of these principles.


1. Don’t provoke a powerful adversary.

Fake complacency, inadequacy and subordination until the ideal moment to strike arrives.


2. Turn your opponent’s house on itself.

Win over influential advisers and incite divisions within the population.


3. Be patient to achieve victory.

Victory often requires decades of careful, calculated waiting.

Today, China’s leaders are more than happy to play the waiting game.


4. Steal your opponent’s ideas and technology.

Theft provides a relatively easy, cost-effective means by which a weaker state can usurp power from a more powerful one.

Don’t be hindered by Western-style legal prohibitions and constitutional principles,


5. Target an enemy’s weak points rather than relying on an accumulation of brute strength.

Military might is not the critical factor for winning a long-term competition.


6. Beware political states that have a dominant influence or authority over others.

They will take extreme, even reckless action to retain its dominant position and will seek to eliminate all actual and potential challengers.


7. Deceive others into doing your bidding for you.

Use allies to protect you and proxy states to fight your battles


8. Establish and employ metrics for measuring your status relative to other potential challengers.

The metrics should be social and political, as well as economic.


9. Maintain a deeply ingrained sense of paranoia.

Always be vigilant to avoid being encircled or deceived by others.

View others suspiciously


Big takeaway:

By and large, China has stayed true to those principles, has made great progress towards their goal and is advancing its cause ahead of its timetable.


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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