As the Biden Administration forms its policy on Asia, China will unquestionably be an area of focus. There is a great need for a nuanced understanding of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) motives. It is evident that great-power competition is alive and well in the region, and that China operates from a desire to maintain power and stability within its borders and in the region writ large.
It is also clear that there are some ways in which China’s actions and activities in the region are ideologically motivated. Tackling these challenges requires a clear-eyed view by the U.S. government of the delicate balance between ideological and great-power competition in the region today. In this report, Heritage Senior Research Fellow Dean Cheng and Heritage Senior Policy Analyst Olivia Enos look into the CCP's ideology and where it does, and does not, play a role in China's actions.
The U.S. government must devise a strategy that recognizes that China acts based on a myriad of interests. Some actions are motivated—like those of any other state—by a desire to maintain power. Other decisions are based on the specific model and ideology that the CCP embraces. Understanding that these two forces are both at work prepares U.S. policymakers to respond to challenges as they arise. Eschewing one understanding in favor of the other hamstrings U.S. policy. In fact, policy efforts are better when they combine values components and security components.
The U.S. will continue to act in its own interests in Asia, but it can only benefit the U.S. to understand Chinese motivations and to craft policies that address challenges inherent in the CCP’s system.
Dive deeper: Click here to watch the March 18, 2021 virtual event on understanding the Chinese ideological threat, featuring eminent scholars Andrew J. Nathan and Aaron L. Friedberg.
Related: Click here to read Heritage ASC Director Walter Lohman's commentary on why Congress should legislate accordingly if it is serious about China.