Whither China’s 21st Century Trajectory?

Authored by: Andrew Scobell

The Routledge Handbook of Asian Security Studies

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138210295
eBook ISBN: 9781315455655
Adobe ISBN:


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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the major power in its neighborhood and an emerging great power on the wider global stage. China’s rise has been underway for almost seventy years, but has occurred in a much more serious and sustained manner since the late 1970s. The PRC’s initial upward trajectory – until the late 1980s – was remarkably restrained and peaceful as the country experienced an unprecedented period of domestic political stability. The first decade following China’s launching of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world was accompanied by a largely moderate foreign policy with limited use of coercion. Moreover, during the 1980s and 1990s China witnessed rapid rates of economic growth along with largely manageable internal political and social transformations with the crisis of 1989 being the glaring exception. However, since the 1990s, the PRC appears to have grown more assertive and belligerent externally, China’s economic growth has slowed, and some observers believe that China may be at greater risk of internal political instability than at any time since 1989. 1

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