Editor’s note: We endeavor to bring you the top voices on current events representing a range of perspectives. Below is a column arguing China’s foreign policy is not outwardly aggressive and that the country has been largely concerned with domestic affairs since the 1980s. You can find a counterpoint here, where James Carafano, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation and director of its national security and foreign affairs research, argues that China is a major geopolitical threat to the U.S. and democratic nations in Asia.
China has an authoritarian government whose human rights violations call for worldwide condemnations. However, not all authoritarian nations have aggressive foreign policies. Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Vietnam are cases in point. China used to be aggressive — engaging in wars, revolutionary movements and coups d’état.
However, as of 1980, it has shifted to focus on its own development. It grew its economy at a phenomenal rate, which made it possible to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. After centuries of being occupied and humiliated by foreign powers, even though it has an ancient and very sophisticated culture, China seeks respect, secure borders, influence in the areas around