Perceptions and misperceptions of decision-makers continue to affect foreign policy in most countries, and Chinese top leaders tend to assess the external environment in which China operates and interacts with others, and then make decisions they see fit or prudent accordingly. In the aftermath of the Cold War, Chinese leaders foresaw the decline of the United States and the commencement of a multipolar world. This perception, to certain extent, finally contributed to China's relatively confrontational policy toward the U.S. in the mid-1990s. Since the global financial crisis in 2007, many Chinese analysts have begun to predict, once and again, the decline of the U.S. What's new in China's assessment on the world order since 2007? Would this perception again trigger another round of China's relatively confrontational policy vis-à-vis the U.S. in the near future? This essay aims to answer these questions. This essay describes and compares how China perceives the power structure in world affairs in the early 1990s and late 2000s. Evidence of economic growth seems to support China's optimism for a multipolar world in recent years. China has become more confident in itself, and yet its assessment on world affairs after the financial crisis in 2008 seems to be more sophisticated than that in the early 1990s. The mainstream view in the current discussions is more cautious, with the policy suggestions that China should not seek a direct conflict with the U.S., not be overenthusiastic on the idea of ＂G-2,＂ and may need to slow down the advocacy of multipolarization of world politics.
Tamkang Journal of International Affairs, 18(2), 25-57