Study Group on the Impact of Leadership Politics on Chinese Foreign Policy

Conventional wisdom suggests that factional politics and leadership maneuvering in Beijing are a key source of China’s approach to the rest of the world. Indeed, U.S. policy toward Beijing is based in part on a set of assumptions about the role internal politics plays in Chinese foreign policy making. This study group reviewed that conventional wisdom and those assumptions in an effort to assess the validity of the existing framework for understanding the connection between Chinese politics and foreign policy. Key topics that were explored include the parameters of the Chinese political spectrum, the relative weight to assign leadership politics among the factors influencing Beijing’s foreign policy decisions, and the efficacy of policies toward China that are based on the conventional wisdom. The final product was a Foreign Affairs article by Paul J. Heer.