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The Taming of The Red Dragon: The Militarized Worldview and China's Use of Force, 1949–2001


  • Author's note: I thank John Vasquez, Paul Diehl, James M. Scott, Cooper Drury, Gennady Rudkevich, Shyam Kulkarni, Konstantinos Travlos, Evangeline M. Reynolds, and three anonymous reviewers for many insightful comments and suggestions for improving this study.


For a long time, the People's Republic of China was known to be prone to use military force to settle foreign policy crises or interstate disputes. Extending Alexander Wendt's analysis of different cultures of anarchy, I argue that Beijing's famed violence proneness—that is, its propensity to use force—was historically a product of the militarized or Hobbesian worldview held by China's leaders during Mao's reign, when the PRC acted as a revolutionary challenger against the international system. Since Mao's death, however, China has been increasingly integrated into the system and, consequently, has experienced a Lockean turn in its worldview, which softens its predilection for violence. A systematic, quantitative test of my theory provides strong evidence that the evolution of China's militarized worldview, rather than its expanding relative power, played a key role in driving Beijing's resort to force between 1949 and 2001.