Rush Doshi, China Director in US President Joe Biden’s National Security Council, warns that Beijing has a “Grand Design” to replace the US as the dominant power, not only in Asia, but in the entire world. In his well-received book: The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order Doshi warns that if the US and its allies do not stem China, an “illiberal” world order based on “coercion” would emerge, nullifying democracy’s big gains after World War II.

And the way to prevent this calamity is to adopt China’s way of pursuing its goals, he advocates.

Having a “Grand Design” is only the first requisite, Doshi says. Clarity on the scheme to achieve that goal is equally important. He points out that in pursuit of their “Grand Design” the Chinese have sequenced their steps. Step by step actions are carried out in a planned and coordinated manner. Fine tuning is done to suit shifting ground realities, he points out.  

Three Strategies

Basically, there are three strategies employed by the Chinese for the displacement of the US as the global hegemon. These are military, politicaland economic. The initial strategy has been to blunt American order in Asia, China’s hinterland. The second has been to build Chinese order regionally, and the third is to do bothglobally.

This approach is based on President Xi Jinping’s belief that the world is in the midst of “great changes, unseen in a century”. He said in 2017 that there were unprecedented geopolitical and technological shifts which required strategic adjustment on China’s part.

A key aspect of the unprecedented change, as the Chinese see it, is that the Western powers are “on the path of self-destruction. In China’s view, the West’s self destruction began with the UK leaving the European Union in 2016. In addition there was the election of an inward looking and destructive Donald Trump as US President. The West’s subsequent chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and the storming of the US Capitol by Trump’s extremists in 2021, made Beijing believe that the world’s most powerful democracies were withdrawing from the international order they had helped erect abroad and were struggling to govern themselves at home.

The time and momentum” were on their side, the Chinese felt. China’s leadership declared that a “period of historical opportunity” hademerged to expand the country’s strategic focus from Asia to the wider world.

Three Forms of Control

Doshi says that in its pursuit of its grand design, China has adopted three “forms of control”: (1) coercive capability (2) inducements (3) establishment of legitimacy. The rationale for these three are as follows: A rising hegemon (China) has to blunt the control of the entrenched hegemon (America) over it. No rising State can displace the existing hegemon if it remains at the latter’s mercy. The second is to control others because no State can become a hegemon if it cannot secure the deference of other States through coercive threats, consensual inducements, or rightful legitimacy.The third step is global expansion, through the global blunting of the existing hegemon.

Communist Party’s Role

According to Doshi, in the Chinese scheme to dominate the world, the lynchpin is the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Its nationalist elite seek to restore China to its due place by 2049 byrolling back the historical aberration of the West’s overwhelming global influence. The CCP ensures ideological clarity and consistency to the Grand Design and gives the movement the required organizational structure to marshal human, psychological and material resources.

The inherent strength of the CCP enabled China to overcome the severe challenge posed by US-inspired student revolt which resulted in the Tiananmen Square massacre. Other challenges were the Gulf War, and the Soviet collapse engineered by the US which demonstrated US power. But the 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis, marked by a widespread credit shortage and loss of jobs and income, led Beijing to see US as a declining power. It felt that it was time it made a bold foray into the world at large. The multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to fund infrastructure development in Asia and beyond exploited this opening by endearing itself to the developing countries.

Grim Scenario

Doshi warns that a fully realized Chinese order might eventually involve the withdrawal of US forces from Japan and Korea, the end of American regional alliances, the effective removal of the US Navy from the Western Pacific, deference from China’s regional neighbors, unification with Taiwan. Doshialleges that China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its Community of Common Destiny, would create “networks of coercive capability, despiteconsensual inducement, and legitimacy.”

He feared that Beijing would acquire leadership over global governance and international institutions, split Western alliances, and advance autocratic norms at the expense of liberal ones. Economically, it would weaken the financial advantages that underwrite US hegemony and seize the commanding heights of the fourth industrial revolution from artificial intelligence to quantum computing, with the US “declining into a deindustrialized, English-speaking version of a Latin American republic, specializing in commodities, real estate, tourism, and perhaps transnational tax evasion.

The Chinese would field a world-class military force with bases around the world that could defend China’s interests in most regions and even in new domains like space.

China joined has regional organizations and also launched its own institutions like the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the elevation and institutionalization of the previously obscure Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), even as the US has walked out of some.


Doshi suggests that the US should do what China is doing which is to join and not opt out of international organizations. It should promote economic development in the developing countries and form alliances with democratic countries to challenge and expose the “illiberal” Chinese model and promote the US model both diplomatically and militarily.

However, writing in Council on Foreign Relations journal, Charles Dunst, says that Doshi is unrealistic about the US’ capabilities. Political winds have shifted. The U.S. public has little appetite for increased defense or foreign aid spending; voters are split on foreign aid, but a clear majority wants less defense spending. Doshi does not, however, grapple with this tension. Doshi says that Washington should help partners develop anti-access/area-denial capabilities. He names Taiwan, Japan, India, and Vietnam as a few that might accept; being already aligned with the United States, they might. But the others he names—the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia—intend to balance the United States and China, which requires not antagonizing Beijing. These countries will not risk their economically vital relationships with China by accepting such provocative US help, Dunst says.

The United States has not matched China in financing development abroad. Even longtime donor and financier, Japan, has curtailed its spending in Asia, where poverty and underdevelopment are the most pressing issues. As a Sri Lankan professor once said: “The American come with a bag full advice, not money. But what we need is money.

Many Asian countries, having emerged from armed conflicts, do not want more conflicts here. Indonesia and Malaysia have come out strongly against Australia’s plan to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the US and UK. Even Singapore, Australia’s most reliable ally in the region, has expressed concern. Some ASEAN countries are worried that the AUKUS agreement is an invitation for a Sino-Western war in their midst. They shudder to think that war, the scourge of the Middle East, will be at their doorstep soon.



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