The Sources of Chinese Conduct: A Debate


More than a half-century ago, George Kennan published an analysis of the sources of Soviet conduct that helped to shape US policy toward Moscow throughout the Cold War.  More recently, the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff – an organization that Kennan founded and led – published an analysis of 21st-century Chinese conduct meant to provide the underpinnings for a new American approach to contending with Beijing’s growing might. 
Did Kennan’s successors hit the mark on China? What is the nature of our competition with China? And what should we be  aiming for? The Center for the National Interest hosted debate on the Policy Planning Staff’s bold new publication on Wednesday, December featuring two world-class experts: 

  • Peter Berkowitz, Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, will present the case for its paper, “The Elements of the China Challenge.”  Dr. Berkowitz joined the State Department from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow.  He is the author of hundreds of books, articles, essays, and reviews on political thought, constitutional law, national security, and international politics. 
  • Elbridge Colby, co-founder and principal at The Marathon Initiative and former Pentagon lead for the development of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, recently co-authored an article in Foreign Affairs contending that the competition with China is not fundamentally about ideology – and that overestimating ideology’s role is dangerous for the United States. 

    Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest, served as the moderator.