China is a country with more than a billion people, but as Ross Terrill observed, when we ask what China wants, we are really attempting to discern the goals of the seven “male engineers” who make up the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party.
This clarification makes the answer straightforward: Like any bureaucracy or interest group the CCP wants to ensure its survival, which depends on maintaining legitimacy with the Chinese people.
To meet this goal, the CCP under President Xi Jinping has articulated a strategy of peaceful development; however, increasing Chinese military capabilities and strategic coercion will cause other states to balance against China, making it harder for the CCP to protect its core interests and continue its economic and strategic rise.
China’s Long-Term Goals
The CCP considers foreign policy directly related to maintaining domestic stability and regime survival. Chinese Scholar Ye Zicheng expressed the nationalist sentiment: “If China does not become a world power, the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will be incomplete.
Only when it becomes a world power can we say that the total rejuvenation of the Chinese nation has been achieved.” This has become widely accepted among both common and elite Chinese citizens. To maintain control of Chinese nationalism, and to channel it as a source of legitimacy for the regime, the CCP has established the two concepts of “core interests” and a “new type of great power relationship.”
The 2011 Chinese White Paper “China’s Peaceful Development,” lists the six core Chinese interests as 1) state sovereignty; 2) national security; 3) territorial integrity; 4) national reunification; 5) China’s political system established by the Constitution and overall social stability; 6) basic safeguards for ensuring sustainable economic and social development. The concept of core interests is how the CCP signals the issues it is willing to go to war over.