Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst : China’s Varied Responses to US Strategic Competition

Baohui ZHANG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


America’s embracement of a competition posture against China has redefined their bilateral relationship and reordered the latter’s strategic environment. However, how China has responded to US strategic competition has been understudied. This study seeks to fill the gap by using structural realism to gauge China’s reactions. It argues that China’s periodic confrontations with the United States, such as the one over Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, do not define its strategy towards the United States. In fact, this strategy incorporates three components: binding, balancing, and competition. China continues to seek to bind further with the US to limit Washington’s ability to shift towards a full containment posture. As the same time, China has also been pursuing bolder or new balancing and competition measures to safeguard its security and influences. While binding represents China ‘hoping for the best’, balancing and competition show it is ‘preparing for the worst’. China’s balancing and competition measures have only further intensified the strategic rivalry with the US, even though Beijing prefers as much cooperation with Washington as possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-371
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Contemporary China
Issue number146
Early online date10 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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