China’s Strategic Thinking toward the US Role In the Indo-Pacific, 2013–2016


President Obama’s second term overlapped perfectly with the first four years after the inauguration of President Xi Jinping, who adopted several major shifts in China’s previous foreign policy tradition, breaking away from Deng Xiaoping’s mantra of “keeping a low profile and biding our time” that had been enshrined since the beginning of reform and opening-up in 1979. Under Xi’s new leadership, Chinese foreign policy demonstrated an undisguised tendency to assert its positions, flex its muscle, and expand its geopolitical and geo-economic interests. Key initiatives included the Periphery Diplomatic Working Conference of October 2013,1 the introduction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the fall of 2013, the beginning of land reclamation in the South China Sea in 2014, and the founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in 2015. China’s foreign policy was also characterized by the continued deterioration of relations with North Korea, which culminated in the two North Korean nuclear tests in 2016, South Korea’s eventual decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, and China’s retaliation against Seoul through sanctions.

One of the constant themes of Xi’s new foreign grand strategy centered on the role of the United States in the region and more broadly in the global system. At the Fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) held in Shanghai in May 2014, Xi introduced the concept of a new regional security architecture for Asia, replacing the US alliance system. Nicknamed China’s “Monroe Doctrine,” Xi’s appeal was for “Asia for Asians.”2 The concept stirred up significant reactions and concern from the West, including the US, as China attempted to declare Asia its own sphere of influence and drive the US out of the region. Regardless of its actual success, this particular aspect of Xi’s strategic vision and perception of the US heavily influenced China’s strategic thinking toward the US over the following decade.

From 2013 to 2016, China’s primary view of the US role in the Indo-Pacific originates from the Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia” strategy. Perceiving military pressure from the US in the western Pacific on the four contentious issues—the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea, Taiwan, and the South China Sea—China’s first and foremost reaction was to develop an alternative theater of influence, which was the foundation for Xi Jinping’s BRI. “Going West” while the east is overcrowded became the theoretical framing and context of China’s active push for geo-economic expansion in the vast area to the west of China.

While the BRI was designed to develop China’s alternative realm of influence, Beijing understood perfectly well that the Sino-US relationship remained the single most important bilateral relationship for China; it was not an issue that China could afford to ignore or neglect. China’s answer to the increasingly competitive relationship with the US in the region was the proposal of a “new model of major power relations” (新型大国关系). Designed to manage the “peaceful transition of power between a status quo power and a rising power,” it was presumed to be an effective way to reassure the status quo United States of the benevolent intention of the rising China and ensure the power transition would take place without the necessity of a war between the two. In the context of the Indo-Pacific region, the original Chinese thinking on the manifestation of the new model was the gradual displacement of the US leadership role in the region with a new China-led regional order. However, to this date, the concept of a new model of major power relations has still not yet been endorsed by the United States. In fact, many argue that it is precisely the idea of a peaceful replacement or displacement of the US by China that alerted Washington to China’s true intent, paving the ground for the shift in US national security strategy to great power competition after 2016 during the Trump administration.

China’s strategic thinking about the US role in the region is also heavily imbued by the conviction of an ongoing ideological context. The wave of democratization in Southeast Asia led by Myanmar’s political reform, following the Arab Spring and Jasmine Revolution, rang the alarm bell for China that “color revolution” remained a high priority in the US regional agenda and that China was by no means immune to its impact. For China, the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014 fundamentally shook the foundation of Beijing’s desired reign in these two territories, leading to the Democratic Progressive Party’s return to power in Taiwan in 2016 and the escalation of conflict between Hong Kong and Beijing in the following years. Beijing’s belief that the US had instigated the democratic movement in the region to undermine China’s rise greatly contributed to the distrust and hostile perception of US intent under the Obama administration, a shift that Beijing eventually came to regret during the following Trump administration.

 Although China never came to see the Obama administration as China-friendly, from 2013 to 2016, it did safely assume that engagement was the primary theme of the US strategy toward China. The belief that US-China relations had a ceiling as well as a floor indulged China in the notion that if China’s peaceful rise had been possible, perhaps China’s peaceful surpassing and replacement of the US would also be possible. The emboldening China experienced during this period resulted in the grave miscalculation that the timing had matured for China to rise and challenge the US in the international system, a mistake that Beijing came to regret significantly and pay dearly for in the following years.

“Pivot to Asia” versus the BRI

The “Pivot to Asia,” also known as the “Rebalance to Asia” was officially launched in 2011 in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s article in Foreign Policy, “America’s Pacific Century.”3 Many Chinese policy experts saw the strategy as dominating overall US national security strategy during Obama’s second term. The strategy emphasized the key importance of the Asia-Pacific region for the global economy and geopolitics and called for a “sustained commitment” to “forward-deployed diplomacy,” “new partnerships,” “multilateral cooperation,” and “elevated economic statecraft.” The strategy, according to the article by Clinton, would proceed along six tracks: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening America’s relationships with rising powers, including China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.

The “Pivot to Asia” strategy was framed from the very beginning as a strategic rebalancing of US priorities and resources toward the Asia Pacific, the perceived epicenter of the global economy and politics. An implied premise of the strategy lies in the recognition that the Middle East, through the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had absorbed the majority of US attention and priorities for too long and that this had led the US to lag behind in other geopolitically consequential regions. This was especially salient in light of China’s rapid development and muscle flexing in the Asia Pacific. Throughout his two terms, Obama had worked to reduce the US military footprint in the Middle East, placing a greater emphasis on diplomacy.4

Asian allies of the US had complained that the “Pivot” began to drift during Obama’s second term despite the overall direction it maintained, but the momentum to focus on the region continued despite the change of administration. By the beginning of Trump’s presidency, the buzzword shifted to “Indo-Pacific Strategy,” which to a certain extent reflected the continuation of the US prioritization of the Asia region as Indo-Pacific is perceived by many as “Asia Pacific plus India.”

China’s most direct reaction to the “Pivot to Asia” strategy was the BRI. The concept itself followed Professor Wang Jisi’s “March West” proposal, which had been regarded as China’s own strategic rebalancing to the vast area to the west of China in light of the enhanced strategic contest with the United States in the Asia Pacific region.5 In terms of its foundational logic, the BRI fit well with Chairman Mao Zedong’s strategic thinking: “where the enemy advances, we retreat; where the enemy retreats, we pursue” (敌进我退,敌退我进). Having identified the US intention to decrease its entanglement in the Middle East and Central Asia, the BRI aimed to advance China’s footprint in an area from which the US was withdrawing. Starting with Xi’s introduction of the Silk Road Economic Belt during his September 2013 visit to Kazakhstan and his announcement of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road the following month in Indonesia, Beijing formally launched its own strategic pivot.

From a political leadership perspective, the Chinese reaction to the “Pivot” coincided with the rise of Xi Jinping. The leadership change redefined China’s foreign strategy agenda, advanced a much more assertive interpretation of the US role in the region, and strengthened China’s pushback. Defining his mission to lead the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,”6 Xi formally abandoned China’s diplomatic path of “keeping a low profile” and instead sought proactive diplomacy and security policy to assert China’s interests. With the BRI representing China’s geo-economic campaign for expansion, China has actively sought to build up its military power, especially in terms of the Chinese Navy’s power projection capability. As China became equipped with new wealth from a decade of rapid economic growth, China’s economic resources and economic statecraft became some of the most effective instruments in its foreign policy toolkit. Beijing began to adeptly utilize economic rewards and sanctions to influence other countries’ policy decisions.

With Xi’s leadership and his vision for China’s resumption of regional and global leadership, China now saw the US as the hegemon that China will surpass and displace, first in China’s immediate neighborhood, Asia, then potentially in other parts of the world. It remains debatable as to whether China wishes to replace the US as the global hegemon. Especially in regions further away from the Chinese border, such as the Middle East and Africa, there is a strong argument in China that China should just free ride in terms of the security provided by the US at America’s expense.

New Model of Major Power Relations

Starting with the Periphery Diplomacy Working Conference held in October 2013, China’s foreign policy officially made a strategic shift from prioritizing relations with the United States to emphasizing first and foremost China’s relationship with its periphery and neighbors. This represented a major shift in priorities from those set by Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao. One key indicator that people observe is the background of the Chinese Foreign Minister: under Hu Jintao, the two Foreign Ministers—Li Zhaoxing and Yang Jiechi—both came from a career focused on relations with the US. Xi, however, selected Asia specialist Wang Yi to lead China’s foreign policy work, reflecting a heightened prioritization of Asia and China’s periphery.

Still, there was no illusion in Beijing that China could afford to neglect its relationship with the US, which to this day remains China’s largest trading partner and most significant national security threat. In Xi Jinping’s original design, this most contentious relationship would be addressed by developing a “new model of major power relations” between China and the US. The proposal was made during his meeting with Obama at the Annenberg Retreat in California in June 2013, and includes three principles: no conflict or confrontation, which is a prerequisite; mutual respect, which provides the basis for healthy major-country relations; and mutually beneficial cooperation, which provides the means to turn this vision into a reality.7

In the Chinese vision, the “new model of major power relations” is designed to counter and overcome the so-called Thucydides Trap, which predicts an inevitable war between the status quo power and the rising power. Harvard professor Graham Allison conducted thorough elaboration of the concept and its application on U.S.-China relations through the analysis of the historical precedents of power transitions.8 According to People’s Daily, the new model of major power relations is designed to surpass the traditional “tragedy of great power politics” in the power transition process and to build a new model of relations characterized by orderly competition and cooperative win-win solutions.9

A fundamental assumption in China’s proposal is the continued decline of the United States. In the Chinese assessment, this trend accelerated under Obama, especially during his second term. According to Global Times, Obama’s second term was plagued by the poor performance of the US economy, Republicans’ rejection of an ethnic minority president, and Obama’s own lack of authority.10 For China, the predestined rise of China is not the reason for US decline, but it makes the relative decline of the United States vis-à-vis China’s rise more striking and evident. The belief that the US is weakening is the cornerstone of the proposal of a new model of major power relations; if the result of Chinese displacement or replacement of the US is inevitable, the only question left is how to manage that transition process at the lowest cost, without the inevitable military conflict in Allison’s analysis.

To this date, the assumptions of China’s rise, the US decline, and the inevitable power transition to China as the hegemon has not been embraced by the US strategic community. Although there is a general agreement that US is no longer the overwhelmingly predominant superpower it used to be after World War II or the Cold War, many US strategists are still convinced that it will remain the largest superpower for a long time to come.11 This is particularly true when the national power of states is evaluated through a comprehensive lens instead of through the size of the economy alone.

In this context, the Chinese proposal of a new model of major power relations runs into an embarrassing situation. On the one hand, China under Xi is ready to take over the leadership and hegemonic role from the US, and it is prioritizing how to manage the process with minimal cost and disturbances. On the other hand, the US maintains a lingering self-perception that it is the sole superpower and China’s rise is only a challenge that needs to be managed. This mismatch of perceptions, goals, and agendas as reflected through the vastly different attitudes about the new model of major power relations has contributed to the constant pulling and hauling between the two during Obama’s second term, reflected through the key events of those four years.

Pulling and Hauling Throughout 2013-2016

The events in 2013 since Xi’s inauguration as the paramount leader laid the groundwork for China’s muscle flexing during the following decade. Four significant developments took place in the fall of 2013, two internal and two external. Internally, Xi hosted the Periphery Diplomacy Working Conference in October, which shifted China’s foreign policy priorities from the United States to focus on China’s neighborhood. He also established the State Security Commission in November, which reorganized decision-making processes and the policy coordination processes within the Chinese Communist Party and the government. Externally, China introduced the BRI that fall and declared the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ECS ADIZ) in November.12

The BRI and ECS ADIZ are two early maneuvers Xi used to expand China’s geo-economic influence and flex its muscles to set rules for US military activities in the Chinese maritime periphery, respectively. Especially the BRI represented a strategic shift to expand China’s alternative theater in the context of the perceived heightening of strategic competition in the western Pacific. The ECS ADIZ, in comparison, is a case where China tried to use its regulatory power to strengthen claims for sovereignty and maritime rights in the hope of exerting control and forcing US and Japanese military and civilian airplanes to observe new rules set by China. The US does not recognize China’s new ADIZ and has since flown military aircraft in the zone to challenge Chinese claims.13 Nevertheless, the ECS ADIZ set a significant precedent and worried the US about the potential of China announcing a similar ADIZ in the South China Sea to exert control over the disputed maritime domain.

2014 witnessed the elevation of China’s pushback of the US role in the Indo-Pacific region through two main events. On May 2, 2014, China National Offshore Oil Corporation moved its Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig to a location 17 nautical miles from Triton Island, a highly controversial move that sparked a standoff with Vietnam which also lays claim to the maritime territory and rights in the same waters.14 The incident expedited China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea on several reefs in the Spratly Island chain, starting in September 2013. By October of 2015, China had reclaimed more than 3,000 acres of land in the disputed waters.15

The land reclamation is China’s response to what it perceives as US “unjustified” intervention to support the Philippines and Vietnam.16 For the Chinese, the US has been exploiting China’s maritime disputes with other claimant countries in order to sabotage Beijing’s effort to consolidate its regional leadership role and is using the issue to create a justification for enhanced US security and diplomatic involvement in the region. For China, South China Sea disputes would not have been an issue between China on the one side and Vietnam and the Philippines on the other except that the US decided to intervene on their behalf. The “internationalization of the South China Sea issue” in the Chinese view reflects the convergence of agendas between the claimant countries that tried to drag the US in to boost their strength and the US, which used the opportunity to justify and beef up its own regional presence.17

China’s strategic thinking regarding the need to expel and push back against the US role in the region is best summarized in Xi’s Statement at the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). Nicknamed China’s “Monroe Doctrine,” the statement called for Asian affairs to be handled by Asians and for Asian security to be maintained by Asian people.18 The message is widely interpreted as “Asia is Asians’ Asia” and because China is the single largest power in Asia, by the same token Asia is China’s Asia. Chinese analysts have offered in-depth elaboration on the role of the US. in such an Asia. In their view, the US is a Pacific power, but not an Asian country. Therefore, the term “Asia-Pacific power” intrinsically mixes up the nature of the US being an externality to Asian security. The CICA statement is seen as the first official declaration of China’s intention to push the US out of Asia. Regarding the role that the US should play in the region, Chinese analysts have argued that the external power is welcome to develop economic and political relations with Asian countries under the condition that it will subject itself to the rules made by the regional powers.19

China’s effort to displace the US traditional role in the region was taken to a new level in 2015, when China formally established the AIIB. From the beginning, the Chinese narrative described it as an alternative to the traditional multilateral development banks (MDBs) including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank. Beijing’s desire to establish the AIIB was deeply rooted in its frustration with the US-dominated Bretton Woods System, in which China had experienced difficulties in gaining more voting rights and authority through established processes. In particular, China targeted the decision-making system and the funding priorities of existing MDBs to justify its creation of the AIIB.20 Its goal is widely interpreted to be to set up an alternative system where the China-dominated MDBs could compete in the global development field and serve China’s national interests without subjecting themselves to the rules and norms set by the West, especially the United States. Although the US attempted to dissuade its allies and partners including South Korea and the United Kingdom from joining the AIIB as founding members, China successfully gained the support of 56 countries as founding members including dozens of US allies.21

The two major battles China fought with the US in the last year of the Obama administration focused on the South Korean deployment of the THAAD system in the first half of 2016 and the international arbitration case over the South China Sea in July of that year. The THAAD case is the best example of China’s strategic thinking about the US alliance system in Asia and China’s phased efforts to dismantle it in China’s periphery. Under the presidency of Park Geun-hye, China greatly warmed relations with South Korea through trade, senior-level exchanges, and political ties in the hope that South Korea would become at least more neutral between the US and China in terms of their competition. The center of the attention was focused on South Korea’s deployment of the THAAD system in light of the North Korean nuclear test in January of 2016. When Park reached out to China for a reaction to the nuclear test, Xi refrained from taking her phone call for an entire month. China perhaps thought it had established enough influence and deterrence over South Korea’s strategic choice and that it could put South Korea on the backburner even in light of North Korea’s provocation. However, the damage to South Korea’s national security eventually moved the needle and prompted Seoul to move forward with the deployment of THAAD, which China regarded as detrimental to its own national security. Beijing vehemently criticized both South Korea and the US for the decision and imposed infamous unofficial economic and trade sanctions on South Korea.

From this episode, Beijing learned its lesson about the elasticity of the US-ROK alliance on the Korean Peninsula and China’s impossible choice between South Korea and North Korea. China’s desired endgame on the peninsula is the dissolution of the US alliance system, but for South Korea to accept such a scenario, it must receive credible reassurances on its national security aims and ideally national unification. Since China cannot guarantee either, its effort to dissolve the US-ROK alliance is a catch-22. The THAAD episode contributed to China’s assessment of a long-term struggle with the US over the future of South Korea’s external alignment choices.

US Promotion of Democracy in the Region

Although the Arab Spring, the democratic reform in Myanmar, and the 2011 pro-democracy protest in China took place primarily in Obama’s first term, some of its most critical impact on China did not happen until the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014. In the Chinese view, democratization and human rights have always been an important tool of US foreign policy. The Arab Spring had a demonstration effect for the Chinese public. The political reform pursued by the Thein Sein government in Myanmar further raised the question in China if a military junta in Myanmar could change course and pursue political reform, how could the Chinese Communist Party remain silent on the needed political liberalization forever. Although the Chinese did not see Myanmar as a role model for China, it did see the US push for Myanmar’s democracy as a strategy aimed at curtailing China’s influence in the strategically located state. Among the Chinese observers, the concern about the ideological shift in Myanmar was more about how it would influence other authoritarian states in the region than about the Burmese case’s direct impact over China’s own domestic political.

But for China the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan and the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014 fundamentally shook the foundation of Beijing’s desired reign in these two territories, leading to the Democratic Progressive Party’s return to power in Taiwan in 2016 and sowed the seed for the escalation of conflict between Hong Kong and Beijing in the following years. The Sunflower Movement was initiated by college students and civil society organizations in Taiwan in opposition to the passing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Accord (ECFA) between Taiwan and Mainland China. The protests believed that the ECFA was rushed through at the expense of Taiwan’s economy and would strengthen the influence of mainland China in Taiwan. The movement greatly damaged the credibility of the then ruling party and directly paved the way to its failure in 2016 In Hong Kong, the Umbrella Movement was centered on the demand for more transparent elections, which was sparked by the decision of the National People’s Congress on August 31, 2014, prescribing a selective screening of candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive. It may not have led to immediate political clash and instability, but it prepared the ground for the escalation of tension over universal suffrage in 2017, the extradition bill in 2019, and eventually the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong in 2020 as well as the introduction of the National Security Law, which many see as the end of the city as people used to know it.

There is no doubt in China that both the Sunflower Movement and the Umbrella Movement were created and supported by the United States. In a 2023 report, Chinese official sources officially declared that the CIA is the black hand behind the Sunflower Movement.22 People’s Daily ran a special editorial in October 2014 questioning why the US never grows tired of color revolution.23 The article pointed the finger at the US for promoting the Umbrella Movement and bolstering its legitimacy by defining a “riot” as “pro-democracy.” Beijing’s belief that the US had instigated the democratic movement in the region to undermine China’s internal stability greatly contributed to the distrust and hostile perception of US intentions under the Obama administration.


The four years between 2013 and 2016 might represent the last era of a relatively stable relationship between China and the US. China’s new leader Xi Jinping did see the US as China’s main competitor and the most consequential national security threat, but he also believed in the rise of China and the possibility of peaceful displacement of the United States. The perception of enhanced US pressure from the “Pivot to Asia” strategy prompted Xi to pursue an alternative theater of influence spearheaded by the BRI. And US adherence to a largely engagement-oriented strategy gave China the hope that perhaps a new model of major power relations would avoid a military conflict for the power transition to transpire. The pulling and hauling between China as the rising power and the US as the revisionist power persisted through this period. The emboldening China experienced during this period resulted in the grave miscalculation that the timing was ripe for China to rise and challenge the US in the international system, a mistake that Beijing came to regret significantly and pay dearly for in the following years.

Appendix: Key Events

2013 Proclamations and Activities

2014 Proclamations and Activities

2015 Proclamations and Activities

2016 Proclamations and Activities

2013 Proclamations and Activities

United States


Controversy Over Proposed U.S. Arms Sales to Taiwan — January 17

High U.S.-DPRK Tensions Following Missile Test (2/12/13), Sanctions (3/7/13), Threats — Early Year

U.S. National Security Advisor Delivers Speech, “The United States and the Asia Pacific in 2013” — March 11

  • Notes China’s rise, constructive engagement, no containment, entire section on China strategy.

Secretary of State John Kerry Delivers Remarks in Tokyo on a 21st Century Pacific Partnership — April 15

  • Introduces “Pacific Dream,” intended as rebuff to Xi’s China Dream.
  • Appeals to common U.S. themes of democracy, freedom, human rights, etc.

First U.S. Littoral Combat Ship Arrives in Singapore — April 18

Obama Administration Notifies Congress of Intent to Include Japan in TPP Negotiations —April 24

Park Geun-Hye Addresses Congress — May 8

  • Calls on Pyongyang to break cycle of escalation.

U.S.-Burma Trade and Investment Framework Agreement — May 21

Obama and Xi Informal Summit in Rancho Mirage, CA — June 7–8

  • Agreements reached, including pursuit of bilateral investment treaty.
  • Both leaders deliver remarks June 8.
  • Xi elaborates on new type of great power relations (p350).

U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership Launched — July

U.S. and Chinese Officials Disagree on Handling of Snowden Case — July 11

  • Further comments from Hua Chunying on the matter from June 26.

Biden Delivers remarks on Asia-Pacific Policy — July 19

U.S. Wins Trade Dispute Against China Over Chicken Parts at WTO — August 2

Obama Cancels Asia Trip — October 3

  • Due to looming government shutdown, trip had been expected to include visits to Malaysia and the Philippines as well as APEC summit (Indonesia – Kerry stands in) and EAS summit (Brunei).

U.S. Reaffirms Mutual Defense treaty with Japan Applies to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands — November 23

U.S. Bombers Fly (p.15) Through ECS ADIZ, U.S. and Japan Hold Joint Naval Exercises (p.19) — November 25

  • No notification, no Chinese response. Late November, Japan and South Korea also fly bombers through without notification, no Chinese response.

VP Biden Tells Xi (p.21) U.S. Does Not Recognize ADIZ— December 4

Secretary of Defense Statement (p.21) on U.S.-PRC Military Relations — Early December

  • Hagel calls for efforts to deepen military-military relationship and calls on China, Japan, and South Korea to stay “calm and responsible;” some analysis argues this and related comments could indicate acceptance of ADIZ

Near-Collision of U.S. Missile Cruiser and Chinese Warship — Mid-December

Use of Term “Indo-Pacific” (p.9) — No Date

Various Military Deployments (p.9) to Asia Pacific — No Date

TPP Negotiations — Various

  • 17th, 18th, and 19th rounds, ministerial meetings

U.S. Opposes (p.8) AIIB — No Date

Philippines Institutes Arbitral Proceedings Against China Under UNCLOS — January 22

Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying Meets with U.S. Special Representative for DPRK Policy Davis —January 30

Foreign Ministry Issues Response to U.S. Threatened Sanctions on Chinese Companies —February 11

Director of the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Discusses Building the “Asian Dream” (Together) on Xinhua (()亚洲梦”) — February 28

  • Poses China as the “ballast stone” (“压舱石”) of the regional situation. Argues if China is stable and strong, Asia will be stable and strong. Notable passages:
  • “…用“秀才遇见兵”形容中美在亚洲扮演的角色不太合适。在不同场景中,秀才和兵的角色是会相互转换的。中国该当秀才时不会当兵,但该当兵时决不会当秀才。美国加大对亚洲投入,有自身的利益考量。”
  • 太平洋能否“太平”,很大程度上取决于中美能否和平相处、合作共赢。中美构建新型大国关系,要从亚太做起,成败也取决于亚太。我们欢迎美国在地区事务中发挥建设性作用,那么中国在本地区的利益也应该得到尊重和承认。”
  • Another relevant passage at the end on the North Korea issues.
  • Does not mention U.S. in discussing Senkaku Islands, South China Sea disputes, ASEAN, India, or Pakistan. (p.2)
  • Describes situation in Asia as “chaotic” and “hot.”

Yang Jiechi Press Conference on China’s Foreign Policy — March 9

  • 亚太是中美利益交织最密集、互动最频繁的地区。中方欢迎美国在亚太地区发挥建设性作用,同时美方也应尊重中方的利益和关切。亚太事务应该由地区国家商量着办。我们希望美方同中方一道,努力增进两国在亚太地区的对话合作,携手促进亚太的和平、稳定与繁荣。”
  • Mentions relations with Russia, Japan, developing countries on the African continent and in Latin America, spoke out against North Korea’s nuclear test.

Xi Formally Takes Power — March 14

Hua Chunying Responds to Kerry’s April 15 Speech — April 16

  • Welcomes constructive U.S. presence in region, highlighting peace and common prosperity as shared dreams.

Obama and Xi Informal Summit in Rancho Mirage, CA — June 7–8

  • Agreements reached, including pursuit of bilateral investment treaty.
  • Both leaders deliver remarks June 8.
  • Xi elaborates on new type of great power relations.

U.S. and Chinese Officials Disagree on Handling of Snowden Case — July 11

  • Further comments from Hua Chunying on the matter from June 26.

Wang Yi Delivers Speech at Opening of China-ASEAN High-level Forum — August 2

  • Discusses economic opportunities and China’s lasting status as a world power, makes assurances about expansion (郑和下西洋600多年来,中国从未在海外推行过殖民主义;新中国成立60多年来,也从未对周边进行过任何扩张。中国过去是如此,今后也不会改变。), notes South China Sea Code of Conduct.

Xi Coins the Phrase “Tell the Chinese Story Well” (讲好中文故事— August 19

Diplomatic Kerfuffle Over Aquino’s Attendance at the China-ASEAN Expo — August 29

Xi Suggests Economic Belt Along the Silk Road for First Time (Kazakhstan) — September 7 (interestingly far after you noted in January of 2013 this concept was articulated by Wang Jisi in 2012 in the Global Times)

China Hosts ASEAN Regional Cybersecurity Forum for the First Time — September 11–12

Wang Yi Delivers Speech at Brookings on U.S.-China Relations — September 20

Position Paper on Post-2015 Development — September 22

Li Keqiang Delivers Remarks at EAS — October 10

  • Notes RCEP negotiations, Korean denuclearization, and South China Sea Code of Conduct, denounces perceived issues of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Xi Puts Forward Proposal to Initiate Establishment of AIIB — October 2

CNSC Established — November 12

Relaxation of One-Child Policy and Economic Reforms — November 15

MoFA Spokesperson Gives Remarks on U.S. Legislation on Arms Sales to Taiwan (difficult to find that mentioned legislation) — November 21

  • Also comments on U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission’s Annual Report.

Announcement (p.19) of East China Sea ADIZ — November 23

  • PLA announces ADIZ over waters in ECS including disputed small islands, U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel calls the development a “destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo.”

Joint Note on Strengthening U.S.-China Economic Relations — December 5

Near-Collision of U.S. Missile Cruiser and Chinese Warship — Mid-December

NPC Amends National Criminal Procedural Law — No Date

  • Law increases authorities’ ability to arrest and detain individuals suspected of endangering state security or crimes of terrorism.

Maps Published (p.5) in China Containing 10th Dash in 9-Dash Line, East of Taiwan — No Date

2014 Proclamations and Activities

United States


Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel travels (p.21) to Beijing for “Consultations on the Asia-Pacific” — January

  • High-level bilateral meetings continue despite ADIZ.
  • Deputy Secretary of State William Burns also co-chairs (p.22) interim strategic Security Dialogue.

Xi and Obama Meet in the Hague — March 24

U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Issues Committee Report on Asia-Pacific Strategy — April 17

U.S.-Japan Statement Expressing Concern Over ADIZ Declaration — April 25

  • Clarifies U.S. military support extends to Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

U.S. Charges 5 Chinese Military Hackers for Cyber Espionage — May 19

  • China suspends (p.51) participation in U.S.-China Cyber Working Group in response.

U.S. and China Sign 8 Pacts on Climate Change — July 8

Deputy Secretary of Defense Says 60% of Forces of U.S. Air Force and Navy Will Be in Asia-Pacific by 2020 — September 30

U.S. Air Force, Navy Commanders’ Statement (p.14) — October

  • Commanders say that PLA intercepts in ADIZ are generally professional.

U.S. and China Announce MOUs at APEC Summit  — November 10–12

  • MOU on “Rules of Behavior for Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters” (November 9 and 10)
  • MOU on Notification of Major Military Activities (October 31, November 4)
  • Obama-Xi Meeting (November 11)
  • Joint Press Conference (November 12), where Obama notes U.S. recognition of Tibet as part of China

U.S. and China Jointly Commit to Emissions Reductions — November 12

TPP Trade Minsters’ Meeting in Washington — December 7–12

U.S. Imposes High Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels — December 16

U.S. Opposes AIIB — No Date

CNSC Assigned Responsibilities — January 24

Beijing Conference of 5 Nuclear Powers — April 14

Kunming Railway Attacks — April 30

China Declares New Stage of Strategic Partnership with Russia — May 20

At CICA Summit, Xi Calls to Actively Establish an “Asian Security Concept” (Called “Asian Monroe Doctrine” by Observers, Officials Object in November) — May 21

Military Activity (p.14) Toward Japan — Midyear

  • PLA air force craft are reported to fly in immediate proximity of Japanese surveillance aircraft.

Xi Delivers Remarks on Win-Win Cooperation Commemorating the 5 Principles of Peaceful Coexistence — June 28

China-Vietnam Tensions Around Paracel/Xisha Islands May–June

U.S. and China Sign 8 Pacts on Climate Change — July 8

Xi Delivers Remarks at China-Latin America and Caribbean Leaders’ Meeting — July 17

NPCSC Decision on Hong Kong Elections — August 31

Umbrella Movement Protests (p.38) — From September 26

Xi Introduces Concept of “Maritime Silk Road” — October 3

Representatives from 21 Asian Nations Sign Agreement to Establish AIIB — October 24

APEC Summit Leaders’ Meeting Week — November 5–11

  • Statement on Enhancing Connectivity in Asia, use of “一带一路” phrase (in addition to 丝绸之路) (November 8)

APEC Summit in China — November 10–12

  • Xi’s Opening Remarks (November 11)
  • Declaration from Informal Leaders’ Meeting (November 11)
  • Obama-Xi Meeting (November 11)

U.S. and China Jointly Commit to Emissions Reductions — November 12

TPP Trade Minsters’ Meeting in Beijing — November

Wang Yi Reflects on China’s Foreign Policy in 2014 — December 24

  • Notes foreign policy approach: build a new international relations (by innovating foreign policy, proposing a global partnership network, building the Asia-Pacific Dream, and proposing an Asian Security Concept), deepen exchanges, make contributions to common development, and act as a peacemaker (paraphrased).

2015 Proclamations and Activities

United States


Obama Authorizes (p.51) Sanctions on Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber Activities — April 1

  • Potentially catalyst for talks with high-level Chinese delegation on cybersecurity in Washington September 9–12

U.S.-China Spat at Shangri-La Over Militarization of Islands in South China Sea — May 29

FBI Announces Investigation into Data Breach at OPM, Chinese Officials Deny China’s Involvement — June 4

JCPOA Conclusion — July

  • Analysis disagrees on contributions of U.S.-China cooperation; CRS argues (p.14) important, Stimson analysis argues less important.

Congressional-Executive Commission’s Hearing on China Urging Xi to Stop “State-Sponsored Human Rights Abuses” — September 18

Xi Jinping State Visit to U.S. — September 22-25

TPP Negotiations Conclude — October 4

White House Issues Press Fact Sheet on Rebalance to Asia — November 16

First U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues — December 1

Paris Agreement Breakthrough — December 12

Obama Authorizes $1.83 Billion Arms Sale to Taiwan — December 16

Carrie Lam Approves Chinese Leadership’s Plans to Pre-Screen Hong Kong Election Candidates — January 7

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin Gives Speech at Munich Security Conference on East Asia and Asia-Pacific — February 6

Xi Jinping Gives Speech at Boao Forum on “Community of a Shared/Common Future” — March 28

·         Yang Jiechi Speech on Building Maritime Silk Road

Made in China 2025 Plan Released (p.83) — May 19

U.S.-China Spat at Shangri-La Over Militarization of Islands in South China Sea — May 29

MoFA Issues Declaration on Fully Implementing the NPT — May 31

Zhou Yongkang Sentenced to Life — June 11

  • Anti-corruption campaign ramping up.

China’s Government Takes Steps to Prevent Economic Catastrophe Following Stock Market Crash — June–August

Wang Yi Gives Speech at World Peace Forum, Says China is the Defender, Builder, and Contributor of the International and Regional Order — June 27

AIIB Signing Ceremony in Beijing — June 29

Chinese Officials Put (p.9) Distance Between AIIB and OBOR — Midyear

China Passes Sweeping National Security Law — July 1

MoFA Releases Statement on Legitimacy of Oil and Gas Activities in East China Sea — July 24

Military Parade Commemorating End of WWII — September 3

·         Xi’s speech 1 and 2

Xi Jinping State Visit to U.S. — September 22–25

·         List of outcomes is quite lengthy.

·         Statement on climate change

·         Xi’s speech at welcome ceremony

·         Joint press conference

·         Agreement on cybersecurity (p.51–52, 53)

Xi Gives Speech “中国为和平而来” at UN Peacekeeping Summit — September 28

TPP Negotiations Conclude — October 4

Vice Foreign Minister Gives Speech “坚持合作共赢,促进亚太和平稳定 — October 17

UN Tribunal Decides to Hear South China Sea Case Involving Philippines and China — October 29

·         MoFA response (October 30)

China-Japan-ROK Declaration of Peace and Cooperation in Northeast Asia — November 1

First Meeting of Foreign Ministers for Lancang-Mekong Cooperation — November 12

China’s Government Reportedly Arrests Hackers Allegedly Involved in OPM Hack — December 2

First U.S.-China High-Level Joint Dialogue on Cybercrime and Related Issues — December 1

Paris Agreement Breakthrough — December 12

2016 Proclamations and Activities

United States


North Korea Announces Fourth Nuclear Test — January 6

Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Reportedly Says He Favors 45% Tariff on Chinese Exports to U.S. — January 7

U.S. Deploys F-22 Raptors to Japan (one of multiple deployments throughout the year) — January 20

TPP Text Released — January 26

TPP Signing Ceremony — February 4

North Korea Launches a Long-Range Rocket, South Korea Says it Will Pursue Talks with U.S. to Deploy THAAD — February 6 or 7

Pentagon Calls for Halt to Militarization of South China Sea — February 17

Nuclear Security Summit — March 31–April 1

Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony — April 22

U.S. Commerce Department Increases Tariff on “Dumped” Chinese Cold-Rolled Steel to 522% — May 17

Obama Lifts Arms Sales Embargo to Vietnam — May 23

  • Comments on Chinese response in article

U.S. and China Agree to Implement Cyber Hotline (p.52) — June

Obama Meets with Dalai Lama — June 14

U.S. and South Korea Announce Deployment of THAAD — July

Cyber Hotline Between U.S. and China Operational (p.52) — August

Xi Meets with Obama in Hangzhou — September 3

  • Obama attends G20 Hangzhou summit.
  • Notably lengthy document.
  • U.S. readout

Obama Cancels Meeting with Duterte After Duterte Curses Obama in a Vulgar Manner — September 5

Obama’s Remarks Following ASEAN summit and EAS — September 8

Donald Trump is Elected President — November 8

Trump and Xi Hold First Phone Call — November 14

Trump Calls Tsai Ing-Wen — December 2

  • MoFA lodges “solemn representations”

Liu Zhenmin Gives Speech, “奏响中国与亚洲的命运交响曲” — January 7

  • 新的一年,我们将加快亚洲命运共同体建设,实现“中国梦”与“亚洲梦”相融相通。

Xi Gives Speech at Opening of AIIB — January 16

Tsai Ing-Wen Elected President of Taiwan —  January 16

TPP Text Released — January 26

TPP Signing Ceremony — February 4

Wang Yi Gives Speech in U.S. on China’s Foreign Policy — February 25

  • Comments on economic issues China is facing, China’s foreign policy as an extension of internal affairs, and the diplomacy goal of supporting other countries in understanding China’s model; also notes pillars of BRI, says China will not replace America.

First Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders Meeting — March 23

Nuclear Security Summit — March 31–April 1

Xi Clarifies AIIB Financing Not Restricted to BRI Countries — Spring

Paris Agreement Signing Ceremony — April 22

CICA Statement — April 28

First China-Japan-Korea Public Diplomacy Forum

— April 29

Wang Yi Speech on Community of a Shared Future for Mankind — May 31

U.S. and China Agree to Implement Cyber Hotline (p.52) — June

China Calls on Philippines to Resolve Disputes Bilaterally — June 8

Liu Zhenmin speech on Asian Security Concept and Asia-Pacific security — July 9

Tribunal Rules in Favor of Philippines in South China Sea Case Involving China — July 12

  • Says (p.35) 9-dash line has “no legal basis”
  • China’s response
  • Government issues statement on South China Sea territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.
  • Wang Yi’s remarks
  • Press conference on response white paper July 13

MoFA Issues Statement on Implementation of Declaration of Code of Conduct — July 25

Cyber Hotline Between U.S. and China Operational (p.52) — August

Xi Meets with Obama in Hangzhou — September 3

  • Obama attends G20 Hangzhou summit.
  • Notably lengthy document.
  • U.S. readout

MoFA Issues Statements on ASEAN-China Maritime Hotlines and Application of Rules for Unexpected Maritime Encounters (decided September 7) — September 8

New Cybersecurity Law (p.43) Restricting Technologies from Foreign Firms — November 7

Wang Yi Reflection on 2016 Diplomacy and — December 3

  • 总体而言,2016年的中国外交更加主动,更加进取,更加自信,更加成熟。”
  • Agenda for 2017 includes: “建设性参与解决热点问题和应对全球性挑战,积极引导国际社会增进对中国特色社会主义道路、理论、制度、文化的理解和认同,为十九大召开营造有利外部环境。”…“我们要着力巩固良好外部环境。我们将同美国新政府加强沟通协调,拓展务实合作,妥善管控分歧,推动中美关系持续稳定健康发展。”
  • BRI Summit Forum will be the highlight in 2017.

Chinese Military Aircraft Conduct Long-Range Exercises Over Taiwan Waterways — December 10

  • Did not enter Taiwan’s ADIZ
  • Japanese fighter jets ran interference

1.  “习近平在周边外交工作座谈会上发表重要讲话,” Xinhua, October 25, 2013,

2.  Linda Jakobson, “Reflections From China on Xi Jinping’s ‘Asia for Asians,’” Asian Politics & Policy 8, no. 1 (January 2016): 219, ]

3.  Hillary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy, October 11, 2011,

4.  Greg Myre, “Pledging To End Two Wars, Obama Finds Himself Entangled In Three,” NPR, October 15, 2015,

5.  “中国“西进”地缘战略再平衡内需与开放双扩大,” 环球网, September 14, 2013,

6.  “实现中华人民族伟大复兴是中华人民近代以来球伟大的梦想,” 澎湃新闻, February 22, 2022,

7.  “构建中美新型大国关系,”中国网, November 30, 2018,

8.  Graham Allison, “The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?” The Atlantic, September 24, 2015,

9.  “以新型大国关系取代对抗性大国关系,” 人民日报, May 8, 2016,

10.  “奥巴马加速美国衰落 总统太弱势或无益中美关系,” 环球时报, August 1, 2014,

11.  Michael Beckley, “Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower,” AEI, October 6, 2019,

12.  “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zones: A Primer,” GIMSEC, November 10, 2022,

13.  Elizabeth McLaughlin, “US bombers fly over East and South China Seas in challenge to China,” ABC News, July 7, 2017,

14.  Zhu Feng, “Oil Rig 981 Friction in the South China Sea,” Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, December 23, 2014,

15.  Katie Hunt, “Showdown in the South China Sea: How did we get here?” CNN, August 2, 2016,

16.  Li Jinming, “The South China Sea Arbitration Case: A Public Opinion War Waged by U.S & Philippines,” Pacific Journal 24, No. 3 (2016): pp.21-28,

17.  “照会联合国不改变中国反对南海问题国际化立场,” 新华网, June 10, 2014,

18.  “习近平在亚信峰会作主旨发言(全文),” 人民网, May 21, 2014,

19.  Interview, Beijing, June 2015.

20.  Yin Jie, “亚投行背后的博弈,” 环球人物 8 (August 2015),

21.  “背景资料:亚投行57个意向创始成员国一览表,” Reuters, April 15, 2015,

22.  “中国指称台湾太阳花运动黑手是美国CIA, Radio France International, May 5, 2023,

23.  Wang Hailou, “美国对“颜色革命”为何乐此不疲Renmin Ribao, October 10, 2014,

Now Reading China’s Strategic Thinking toward the US Role In the Indo-Pacific, 2013–2016