Faculty Sponsor: Fuji Lozada
Why has China never started a war, or has it? To address this question, this paper will look at Chinese strategic culture. Strategic culture although not clearly defined, tends to be used to refer to “consistent and persistent historical patterns in the way particular states think about the use for force for political ends” (Johnston). Different states have different sets of strategic preferences based on the particular states’ early military history and its philosophical, cultural, political, and cognitive characteristics as they have developed over time (Johnston). China is often depicted as having at least two models of strategic culture, one based on Confucian-Mencian principles of war as a last resort and the second based on a parabellum paradigm that places offensive strategy above defense and accommodationist ones. Both are historically evident and neither is absolute. This paper will begin to analyze Chinese strategic thought and culture using the case study of the Sino-Vietnamese War. Using past and present literature about Chinese strategic culture and the Sino-Vietnamese War, I argue that China does have strategic culture–not a singular, absolute one however, and that the Sino-Vietnamese War is not strictly an offensive war. I believe the events of the Sino-vietnamese War to be a continuation of Chinese strategic culture. Looking at larger trends in China’s strategic thought can potentially be useful in predicting China’s future positions in times of conflict.