In a world in which the United States holds a preponderance of power, how does China design a grand strategy to advance its security interests? In this article, I argue that China is balancing American power in a “smart” manner. Currently, Beijing is pursuing a grand strategy that combines both internal balancing and external “soft balancing.” The strategy of internal balancing aims to increase China’s relative power through economic development and military modernization with an emphasis on asymmetric capabilities, whereas the strategy of soft balancing is designed to limit or frustrate U.S. policy initiatives deemed detrimental to Chinese interests through diplomatic efforts in multilateral institutions and bilateral partnerships. The strategic logic is to maintain a stable external environment for China to concentrate on economic growth and accumulate relative power—without provoking a vigorous U.S. response. In the long run, however, a strong and prosperous China would likely shift to a more assertive stance in foreign affairs.
I think probably that the lesson that [Kim Jong Un is] learning is that he doesn’t have to give up anything and yet people will be scrambling for summits with him. ... The longer we have these drawn-out talks, these summits, bilaterals, trilaterals, quadrilaterals, the more it buys time for them to reinforce their claimed status [as a nuclear power] but also to continue with their R&D. But I do think that there is an element of trying to mitigate the sanctions, and also Kim took all those discussions about military strikes seriously enough to try and take the wind out of the sails. ... I find it difficult to envision how or why he would give up his nuclear weapons, which have pretty much given him what he’s wanted: which is the strategic relevance, the international prestige, and deterrence.
[Regarding President Trump's shift from enthusiasm to uncertainty over the U.S.-North Korea summit] In effect, President Trump is getting a mini-lesson in talking to the North Koreans even before he talks to the North Koreans.
[Kim Jong Un] did not engage diplomatically at all in those first seven years [as the leader of North Korea], probably because he didn’t want to hear the Chinese nagging him about advancing these weapons. And also he wasn’t going to start bargaining or negotiating them away. ... Kim has done a pivot where he’s doing a maximum engagement.