Christopher ONeal* - California State University Sacramento
Since the year 2000, China has rapidly become a preeminent world power and continues to grow, using much of its newfound wealth to increase its hard power in the region. Many in the West fear China and believe it to be a future threat, however many within China dismiss these ideas and focus on concerns closer to home. As an authoritarian regime, China derives its legitimacy from two sources - economics and nationalism. Nationalism is intrinsically tied with what the Chinese people perceive to be their historic land, and yet the Chinese government pragmatically focuses its people's nationalism to maintain a balance of peace and legitimacy. Recently, China has attempted to assert its dominance over peripheral regions such as the South China Sea and the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, and continues to exercise large amounts of control over the ostensibly semi-autonomous Tibet, but has not attempted to re-establish control over historic Chinese territory in Mongolia and Russia. This paper will contrast the myth of a Chinese threat with the Chinese doctrine of local war, and look at the recent historical and geographical concerns which have driven this policy. A special emphasis will be given to current conflict points and how they relate with China's historical Imperial extent, determining the historical basis for these claims which create the potential spark for conflict.