China's Vision for a New Regional and Global Order

The Issue

“The role we play in international affairs is determined by the extent of our economic growth,” declared Deng Xiaoping in 1980. “If our country becomes more developed and prosperous, we will be in a position to play a greater role in international affairs.” As China gets stronger and richer, what kind of role will it play in international affairs? This fundamental question lies at the heart of discussions about China’s rise. It is a question that Chinese elites continue to weigh, as Xi Jinping has now summoned the country to enter a “new era” during which it will “take center stage in the world.” Like the fast-rising powers before it, the PRC seeks to reshape the international system in a way that reflects both its values and interests as a result of its growing material power.

What exactly does China want? Its political and intellectual elites spend a lot of time discussing options to find a “suit that better fits than the U.S.-led world order.” In order to better understand China’s leaders’ emerging vision for a new order, we need to not just look at what China does through its external behavior, or listen to the official rhetoric and narrative, but analyze what these leaders think.

The Project

With the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, this project will explore the vision of China’s political and intellectual elites for a new regional and global order. It will analyze the debate within the PRC from the “inside out” and explore how this vision is coming to life through a series of regional case studies. The project will also assess the mechanisms, institutions, rules, and norms that might emerge as part of this vision. Through direct engagement with Chinese intellectuals and policy influencers and careful analysis of their writings, NBR will produce a comprehensive assessment of their worldview and vision for the future and examine the specific challenges this may pose to the existing regional Indo-Pacific order and the liberal international system.

Project Objectives

  • Produce a comprehensive assessment of China’s vision for the future and examine the challenges this vision may pose to the existing regional order and the liberal international system
  • Promote a deeper understanding within the U.S. academic community, media, and government of China’s vision for itself in a new regional and global order
  • Contribute toward building an intellectual constituency of experts and government officials who are knowledgeable about China’s vision
  • Generate fresh analysis and policy options for U.S. policymakers

Project Team

Principal Investigator
Nadège Rolland, Senior Fellow for Political and Security Affairs, The National Bureau of Asian Research

Senior Advisors
Harry Harding, University Professor and Professor of Public Policy, University of Virginia
Roy D. Kamphausen, President, The National Bureau of Asian Research
Jennifer M. Lind, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College
Andrew J. Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Columbia University


For more information, please contact [email protected].