An Operational Code Analysis of China’s National Defense White Papers: 1998-2015
- 194 Downloads
Scholarly efforts to predict the future character of the U.S.-China relationship abound. Few however looks to leaders’ beliefs as valid explanatory variables. In this paper, we argue that state leaders’ belief systems are key to understanding both the states’ intentions and policy choices. We analyze China’s national defense white papers (1998–2015) published to date as the source material to gauge the core collective beliefs of three generations of Chinese leadership. The operational code framework is employed to conceptualize and measure these beliefs. Our results identified important crossgenerational changes in a few belief indicators. In the Xi Jinping era, for instance, the political world is seen as less friendly and cooperative strategies are viewed less favorably. In terms of tactics, the policy tools “threaten” and “promise” are viewed as significantly more useful by the current leadership than by past Chinese leaders.
KeywordsChinese foreign policy Operational code National Defense White Paper Leader’s beliefs
The authors would like to thank Dr. Stephen Walker for his valuable advice and comments on various theoretical and technical issues examined in this paper.
- 1.Blasko, D.J. 1999. A new PLA force structure. In The People’s liberation Army in the information age, ed. James C. Mulvenon and Richard H. Yang. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
- 2.Blasko, D.J. 2015. The 2015 Chinese defense white paper on strategy in perspective: Maritime missions require a change in the PLA mindset. China Brief 15(12). The Jamestown Foundation. https://jamestown.org/program/the-2015-chinese-defense-white-paper-on-strategy-in-perspective-maritimemissions-require-a-change-in-the-pla-mindset/. Accessed 1 May 2017
- 3.Cheng, D. 2015. China’s newest defense white paper suggests fundamental change in perspective. Issue brief #4428 on National Security and defense. The Heritage Foundation. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/07/chinas-newest-defense-white-paper-suggests-fundamental-change-in-perspective.
- 6.Eckert, P. 2001. Dismantled U.S. Spy Plane Flown Out of China. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=80826.
- 9.Friedberg, A.L. 2014. China’s recent assertiveness: implications for the future of U.S.-China relations. Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, June 25, 2014, Washington, DC, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Friedberg_Testimony%20.pdf.
- 11.George, A.L. 1979. The causal nexus between cognitive beliefs and decision making behavior: The “operational code” belief system. In Psychological Models in International Politics, ed. L. Falkowski, 95–123. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- 12.Hartnett, D.M. 2013. China’s 2012 defense white paper: Panel discussion report. CNA China Studies. Center for Naval Analyses. https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/CCP-2013-U-005876-Final.pdf.
- 16.Holsti, O. 1977. The “operational code” as an approach to analysis of belief systems. Final Report to the National Science Foundation. Grant No. SOC75–15368.Google Scholar
- 17.Hong, N. 2015. Messages from China’s National Defense White Paper. The Center for Strategic and International Studies. https://amti.csis.org/messages-from-chinas-national-defense-white-paper/.
- 18.Ikenberry, G.J. 2008. The rise of China and the future of the west: Can the liberal system survive? Foreign Affairs 87 (1): 23–35.Google Scholar
- 20.Katkov, M. 2016. China returns U.S. Navy drone seized In South China Sea. NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/20/506256081/china-returns-u-s-navy-drone-seized-in-south-china-sea.
- 22.Leites, N. 1951. The operational code of the politburo. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
- 23.Leites, N. 1953. A study of bolshevism. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
- 24.Li, N. 2006. Chinese civil-military relations: The transformation of the People’s liberation Army. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- 27.Mearsheimer, J. 2001. The tragedy of great power politics. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
- 29.Politico Staff. 2016). Trump slams China's seizure of U.S. drone in tweet. Politico. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/trump-china-drone-seizure-232775.
- 33.Shen, S. 2016. 10 characteristics of Chinese diplomacy in the xi Jinping era. Foreign Policy Association. https://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2016/04/19/10-characteristics-of-chinese-diplomacy-in-the-xi-jinping-era/.
- 35.Sullivan, A., and S. Erickson. 2015. The big story behind China’s new military strategy. The Diplomat. http://thediplomat.com/2015/06/the-big-story-behind-chinas-new-military-strategy/.
- 40.Walker, S.G. 2004. Role identities and the operational codes of political leaders. In Advances in political psychology, ed. M.G. Hermann, 71–106.Google Scholar
- 42.Walker, S.G., and M. Schafer. 2006. Belief systems as causal mechanisms in world politics: An overview of operational code analysis. In Mark Schafer and Stephen G. Walker (Eds.), Beliefs and Leadership in World Politics: Methods and Applications of Operational Code Analysis. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- 44.Walker, S.G., and M. Schafer. 2010. Operational code theory: Beliefs and foreign policy decisions. In The International Studies Encyclopedia, ed. Richard a. Denmark, (2010 Ed.). Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- 46.Wang, S. 1998. The military expenditure of China, 1989–1998. Yale University Department of Political Science. Chinese University of Hong Kong Press. Available at: http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/gpa/wang_files/Milex.pdf.