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The Hundred-Year Marathon

China’s secret strategy to replace America as the global superpower.

Michael Pillsbury

For more than forty years, the United States has played an indispensable role helping the Chinese government build a booming economy, develop its scientific and military capabilities, and take its place on the world stage, in the belief that China’s rise will bring us cooperation, diplomacy, and free trade. But what if the “China Dream” is to replace us, just as America replaced the British Empire, without firing a shot?

Based on interviews with Chinese defectors and newly declassified, previously undisclosed national security documents, The Hundred-Year Marathon reveals China’s secret strategy to supplant the United States as the world’s dominant power, and to do so by 2049, the one-hundredth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Michael Pillsbury, a fluent Mandarin speaker who has served in senior national security positions in the U.S. government since the days of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, draws on his decades of contact with the “hawks” in China’s military and intelligence agencies and translates their documents, speeches, and books to show how the teachings of traditional Chinese statecraft underpin their actions. He offers an inside look at how the Chinese really view America and its leaders – as barbarians who will be the architects of their own demise.

Pillsbury also explains how the U.S. government has helped – sometimes unwittingly and sometimes deliberately – to make this “China Dream” come true, and he calls for the United States to implement a new, more competitive strategy toward China as it really is, and not as we might wish it to be. The Hundred-Year Marathon is a wake-up call as we face the greatest national security challenge of the twenty-first century.


Hundred-Year Marathon looks at the critical issues of who is in fact making policy in the Chinese capital and, as a result, it will be read, analyzed and debated for years. Think of Pillsbury as our time’s Paul Revere.

Gordon G. Chang

Gordon G. Chang

The National Interest

Pungently written and rich in detail, this book deserves to enter the mainstream of debate over the future of U.S.-Chinese relations.

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs

Political & Economic Insights

This is a must-read book. You must get this book, preach the Gospel, and tell the truth about what’s going on in China.

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham

Radio Host & Author

Perhaps most galling in Pillsbury’s findings is the degree of demonization of the U.S. taught regularly in Chinese institutions, without any positive sense of American historical contributions to China’s growth.

This is without question the most important book written about Chinese strategy and foreign policy in years. Michael Pillsbury has spent more than four decades for the Pentagon and the CIA talking to and learning from a core of Chinese 'hard-liners' who may be the driving force behind Chinese foreign policy today under Xi Jinping.

Robert Kagan

Robert Kagan

author, "The World America Made" and "Of Paradise & Power"

A provocative exploration of the historical sources of China's grand strategy to become #l.

Graham Allison

Graham Allison

Director, Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center

The Hundred-Year Marathon is based on work that Michael Pillsbury did for the CIA that landed him the Director’s Exceptional Performance Award. It is a fascinating chronicle of his odyssey from the ranks of the "panda-huggers" to a principled, highly informed, and lonely stance alerting us to China’s long-term strategy of achieving dominance.

R. James Woolsey

R. James Woolsey

Former Director of Central Intelligence, Chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Based on meticulous scholarship and written in lively, engaging prose, this book offers a sobering corrective to what has long been the dominant, soothing narrative of Sino-American cooperation.

Robert Kagan

Robert Kagan

author, "The World America Made" and "Of Paradise & Power"

Through the use of memoirs and oral histories, Pillsbury has also formulated a provocative counterpoint to Henry Kissinger’s version of the origins of President Nixon’s opening to China in 1971. China, and not the United States, drove that opening process, Pillsbury says.

A provocative and insightful new book. I recommend it to anyone interested in China’s future.

Donald Rumsfeld

Donald Rumsfeld

Former Secretary of Defense

From theMedia

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100 Years in Short

  • wangxia

    1844: Treaty of Wangxia

    “In the latest version of history, the first American villain is President John Tyler. In the Treaty of Wangxia, signed in 1844, Tyler imposed on China what Mao called “the first unequal treaty signed as a result of U.S. aggression against China.”  (p. 104)

  • anson

    1868: Anson Burlingame Visits China

    According to Mei Renyi at the Center for American Studies at Beijing’s Foreign Languages University, the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 forced China ‘to follow Western Cultural norms.’ (p. 105)

  • tiananmen

    1958: Monument in Tiananmen Square

    “What the monument actually signifies is the airing of China’s grievances…a ‘century of humiliation’ at the hands of the Western powers, beginning in 1839…That the obelisk has become a centerpiece for patriotic demonstrations among the Chinese people sends another signal that we have missed: China’s day of justice is coming” (p. 18)

  • nixon

    1972: Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger

    “But many have forgotten…that the opening was not actually initiated by Nixon or by Kissinger…Indeed, in many ways, it was not Nixon who went to China, but China that went to Nixon ” (p. 52)

  • scientific

    1978: Transfer of scientific knowledge begins

    “In July 1978, President Carter sent to China the highest-level delegation of U.S. scientists ever to visit another country…[Frank Press] was surprised when Deng proposed that the United States immediately accept seven hundred Chinese science students, with the larger goal of accepting tens of thousands more…” (p. 70)

  • massacre

    1989: Tiananmen Square massacre

    “Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of unarmed Chinese students died in the streets…Whole building surrounding the square were raked with gunfire. Soldiers kicked and clubbed protesters and tank treads rolled over their legs and backs.” (p. 83)

  • embassy

    1999: U.S. Accidentally Bombs China Embassy in Belgrade

    “The People’s Daily…called the bombing of the Belgrade embassy a ‘barbaric crime’ and referred to ‘NATO led by the United States’ as an ‘arch-criminal’…The long, front page article likened the United States to Nazi Germany in eight specific ways.” (p. 94)

  • clinton

    2000: U.S. Normalizes Trade Relations with China

    “By the end of 1993, in what the Chinese now refer to as “the Clinton coup,” these allies persuaded the president to relax his anti-China stance…Sanctions were eased, then lifted.” (p. 92)

  • chinadream

    2009: Col. Liu Mingfu publishes The China Dream

    “…Xi was referring to a once-obscure book…published in China in 2009 called The China Dream. The book was written by a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army named Liu Mingfu…It was here that I first spotted a specific written reference to ‘the Hundred Year Marathon’ ” (p. 28)

  • treemall

    2012: Cai Guo-Qiang explodes Christmas tree on National Mall

    “We Americans still don’t see China the way it sees us—a condition that has persisted for decade. Why else would the Smithsonian Institution pay a famous Chinese artist $250,000 to blow up a Christmas tree on the National Mall?” (p. 4)

  • xichina

    2013: President Xi Assumes Presidency of China

    “…the prevailing sentiment among Western observers was that Xi, a rather harmless looking man…was a Gorbachev like reformer…But Xi soon demonstrated that he had a dream of his own—one of a resurgent China that would reclaim its rightful place atop the global hierarchy” (p.17)


A presentation of China’s hidden agenda grounded in the author’s longtime work at the U.S. Defense Department. Since his recruitment.

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Senior Fellow and Director for Chinese Strategy Michael Pillsbury is a distinguished defense policy adviser, former high-ranking government official, and author of numerous books and reports on China, including most recently The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace the United States as a Global Superpower. During the Reagan administration, Pillsbury was Assistant Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning and responsible for implementation of the program of covert aid known as the Reagan Doctrine. In 1975-76, while an analyst at the RAND Corporation, Pillsbury published articles in Foreign Policy and International Security recommending that the United States establish intelligence and military ties with China. The proposal, publicly commended by Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, and James Schlesinger, later became U.S. policy during the Carter and Reagan administrations.

Pillsbury served on the staff of four U.S. Senate Committees from 1978-1984 and 1986-1991. As a staff member, Pillsbury drafted the Senate Labor Committee version of the legislation that enacted the US Institute of Peace in 1984. He also assisted in drafting the legislation to create the National Endowment for Democracy and the annual requirement for a DOD report on Chinese military power.

In 1992, under President George H. W. Bush, Pillsbury was Special Assistant for Asian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, reporting to Andrew W. Marshall, Director of Net Assessment. Pillsbury is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Pillsbury is the author of China Debates the Future Security Environment (NDU Press, 2000) and editor of Chinese Views of Future Warfare (NDU Press, 1998).

Pillsbury was educated at Stanford University (B.A. in History with Honors in Social Thought) and Columbia University (M.A., Ph.D.).

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