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About the Author

Michael Paul Pillsbury is a leading authority in China. He has worked under various US presidential administrations. He is a famous sinologist and former public official in the United States. He has served various posts in the U.S. Department of Defence and the U.S. senate throughout his career.

Pillsbury is the author of three books on Chinese foreign policy strategy and Sino-American relations. These three books are:-

·       Pillsbury, Michael (2015). The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower

·       Pillsbury, Michael (2000). China Debates the Future Security Environment

·       Pillsbury, Michael (1998). Chinese Views of Future Warfare

His recent book The Hundred Year Marathon, appeared as a selection of the 2017 U.S. Special Operations Command, Commanders Reading List.

Pillsbury participated in President Carter’s decision in 1979-80, as modified by President Reagan in 1981, to initiate military and intelligence ties with China.

He has been called a “China-hawk”, and an “architect” of Trump’s signature policy on China. He has also written many US China Commission Congressional reports. He has worked with RAND corporation as an analyst. He has a very close relationship with the U.S. intelligence CIA.


Although, Pillsbury didn’t categorize himself into any major traditions of International relations. But his writings suggest that he see things from both constructivist and realist school of thought.

He’s a great sinologist. His writing is mainly China-specific. He has a specialization in China. We can safely call him, a diplomatic writer. He wrote on the basis of inputs from China’s leaders, memos or direct meetings.

 He has been in service for so long in a different department in the US, writing for China.

He’s also very close to the Intelligence community and often advises different administrations regarding China.

Assessment of author

Michael Pillsbury has written the many RAND and Department of Defence white paper for the United States. He’s studying China for the last 3 decades. He was the man who was behind the US-China military and intelligence collaboration.

He has vast experience working with Chinese leaders and PLA for the last 3 decades. Although he’s not an academician but due to his continuous work with China. He has gathered a large amount of practical experience. So we can say, he’s a bureaucratic/diplomatic author on China’s affairs.

Assessment of the book

In the book, Michael Pillsbury admits that, like many others, from academics to lawmakers to presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, he was fooled by China. This book is an account of how the US continuously helped China, and how China kept betraying it. The most interesting part is how a dove person like him turned into a hawk as he dealt more and more closely with China.

The book presents two theses. First, China started on a 100-year marathon decades ago to become the global hegemon. China has a plan to supplant the U.S as the leader of the global order. Once established, China will set up a world order that is fair to China, a world without American global supremacy. Its target is 2049, the centenary of the PRC.

Second, Chinese leaders draw their strategies from Chinese ancient texts, especially from the Warring States period.

The other interesting thing is about the Chinese language. The Chinese language is very complex and has a lot of ambiguity. The actual meaning of a word often depends on tone, context and intent. Thus, translations are often misinterpreted. 

All the winning principles coming from the Warring states period involve deception. The strategy of deception is always a central theme in any Chinese strategy. The most celebrated military victories in Ancient Chinese history are based on “deception”.

He was taught a proverb intended to sum up Chinese history: “On the outside, be benevolent; on the inside, be ruthless.”

So overall, his prediction is China is not going to become a liberal and open society like western any time soon but China will challenge the U.S. hegemonic position and with the good timing of SHI, China tried to replace the U.S. as the global hegemon.


The narrative of an aggressive China is gaining currency now in Washington and western media. The aggressive behaviour of China in the south China seas, Himalayas, and Japan have alerted the neighbours of China to rearm their army for a possible confrontation.

Pillsbury speaks of the risk of prematurely “asking the weight of the emperor’s cauldrons,” or wending (page 196), which sounds exotic. What it means is showing your cards too soon. China has in fact done just this; with the consequences the Chinese sages would have predicted: creating failure as others react in time. Japan is rearming their Navy, India and Australia are investing millions of dollars in arms for defence purposes. The US is again focusing on the Indo-pacific.

My conclusion: we will certainly soon see a highly militarized Asia; we may see some skirmishes or worse.

Ankit Kumar is a student of Masters in International Relations, (MA, PISM), JNU. He has graduated in Political science from St Xavier’s College Ranchi. He has also Cleared UGC NET JRF in Political Science.

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