If an escalating situation in the South China Sea inaugurates a more alarming Cold War-type rivalry between Beijing and Washington, it is more than just academically interesting to wonder what form such a strategic competition might actually adopt. A spring 2016 article from the Chinese-language journal China’s Foreign Affairs (中国外交) may offer some hints regarding Beijing’s possible embrace of “dark arts” within such an escalating rivalry. The article, “Research on Wedge Strategies: Review and Evaluation” discussed in this edition of Dragon Eye is by author Ling Shengli, a scholar at the Foreign Affairs College (外交学院) in Beijing. There is reason to view the article as significant, since it was published earlier in the prestigious journal World Economics and Politics (世界经济与政治) and was supported by government research grants.
The article’s very first, crisp sentence illustrates the author’s analytical inclinations: “The struggle for power is the normal state of international relations.” (权利竞争是国际政治的常态). In a similarly straightforward tone, Ling states that a “wedge strategy” (楔子战略) is one that a state (or group of states) employs to block the formation of a potentially hostile alliance or to “separate, destroy, or collapse a hostile alliance that has already been formed. . . ” (分化, 破坏, 瓦解已经形成的敌对联盟). Above all, the author seems focused on “decreasing the possibility for containment.”….Message to US — Don't back the Bear or Dragon into a corner. Those teeth and claws are sharp.
The National Interest
Does China Think America Is Using a 'Wedge Strategy'?
Lyle J. Goldstein | Associate Professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island