Assessing Assertions of Assertiveness: The Chinese and Russian Cases

Stephan de Spiegeleire, Eline Chivot, João Almeida Silveira, Michelle Yuemin Yang, Olga Zelinska

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This study points to worrying trends in how far two great power contenders, Russia and China, have been willing to go to assert themselves in the international arena. It concludes that increased willingness to resort to brinkmanship has heightened the danger of a ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’-type event that could spiral into uncontrollable escalation.
Based on a several unique new datasets that were specifically assembled for this project, as well as a number of different analytical tools and methods, this study provides quantitative evidence that great power assertiveness has risen significantly over the past few decades. China’s assertiveness has increased most sharply (by about 50% since 1979), but remains at a lower level than Russia’s, which has risen more modestly yet still shows a marked increase since President Putin’s third term in office. Second, both countries’ assertive deeds surpass their rhetoric, which should be a cause for concern: they walk the walk even more than they talk the talk. This applies to both the military, political and economic domains. However, one positive conclusion is that non-confrontational forms of assertiveness continue to outweigh the aggressive actions of both countries. And finally, China increasingly flexes its military muscle. Russia presents a more mixed picture, although here too the Russian baseline remains significantly higher than the Chinese one.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThe Hague, Netherlands
PublisherHCSS – The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies
Number of pages67
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-91040-96-2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Geopolitical Strategy
  • Russia
  • China
  • Assertiveness
  • Security Studies


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