THE LONGER TELEGRAM
Toward a new American China strategy
Today the Atlantic Council publishes an extraordinary new strategy paper that offers one of the most insightful and rigorous examinations to date of Chinese geopolitical strategy and how an informed American strategy would address the challenges of China’s own strategic ambitions.
Written by a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China, the strategy sets out a comprehensive approach, and details the ways to execute it, in terms that will invite comparison with George Kennan’s historic 1946 “long telegram” on Soviet grand strategy. We have maintained the author’s preferred title for the work, “The Longer Telegram,” given the author’s aspiration to provide a similarly durable and actionable approach to China.
The focus of the paper is China’s leader and his behavior. “The single most important challenge facing the United States in the twenty-first century is the rise of an increasingly authoritarian China under President and General Secretary Xi Jinping,” it says. “US strategy must remain laser focused on Xi, his inner circle, and the Chinese political context in which they rule. Changing their decision-making will require understanding, operating within, and changing their political and strategic paradigm. All US policy aimed at altering China’s behavior should revolve around this fact, or it is likely to prove ineffectual.”
The author of this work has requested to remain anonymous, and the Atlantic Council has honored this for reasons we consider legitimate but that will remain confidential. The Council has not taken such a measure before, but it made the decision to do so given the extraordinary significance of the author’s insights and recommendations as the United States confronts the signature geopolitical challenge of the era. The Council will not be confirming the author’s identity unless and until the author decides to take that step.
The Atlantic Council as an organization does not adopt or advocate positions on particular matters. The Council’s publications always represent the views of the author(s) rather than those of the institution, and this paper is no different from any other in that sense.
Nonetheless, we stand by the importance and gravity of the issues that this paper raises and view it as one of the most important the Council has ever published. The Council is proud to serve as a platform for bold ideas, insights, and strategies as we advance our mission of shaping the global future together for a more free, prosperous, and secure world. As China rapidly increases its political and economic clout during this period of historic geopolitical crisis, this moment calls for a thorough understanding of its strategy and power structure. The perspectives set forth in this paper deserve the full attention of elected leaders in the United States and the leaders of its democratic partners and allies.