“Peaceful coexistence,” long a key phrase in China’s strategic thinking, is a constructive doctrine that offers China a path for influencing the international system. So argues Liselotte Odgaard in this timely analysis of China’s national security strategy in the context of its foreign policy practice.

China’s program of peaceful coexistence emphasizes absolute sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. Odgaard suggests that China’s policy of working within the international community and with non-state actors such as the UN aims to win for China greater power and influence without requiring widespread exercise of military or economic pressure.

Odgaard examines the origins of peaceful coexistence in early Soviet doctrine, its midcentury development by China and India, and its ongoing appeal to developing countries. She reveals what this foreign policy offers China through a comparative study of aspiring powers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She explores its role in China’s border disputes in the South China Sea and with Russia and India; in diplomacy in the UN Security Council over Iran, Sudan, and Myanmar; and in China’s handling of challenges to the legitimacy of its regime from Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Japan.

Liselotte Odgaard is a professor in the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defence College. She was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in 2008–2009.




1. The Art of Walking on Two Legs: China’s National Security Strategy since the Cold War

2. Theoretical, Historical, and Strategic Alternatives to Chinese-Style Peaceful Coexistence

3. Coexistence: A Strategy of Influence for Would-Be Great Powers

4. China’s Policies on Conflict Resolution: The South China Sea, the Chinese-Russian, and the Chinese-Indian Border Disputes

5. China’s Policies on Diplomacy: The Cases of Iran, Sudan, and Myanmar

6. China’s Policies on Legitimacy: The Cases of Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Japan

7. Conclusion: Making Sense of China’s National Security Strategy


“A powerful survey highly recommended for any serious collection on China’s politics and place in the world.”—Midwest Book Review

“Rather than dismissing the principle of (peaceful) coexistence as either propaganda or a necessary policy of a weak power, Liselotte Odgaard unravels the concept as the driving strategy behind China’s foreign and national security policy and shows how it has been successful in both protecting and progressively maximizing China’s interests.”—David Shambaugh, George Washington University

“A superior analysis of a topic of tremendous importance to scholars and policy makers alike.”—Qingmin Zhang, Peking University