On November 7, 2011, Study Times, a journal of the Party School of the Central Committee of the CCP, published an article discussing the benefits of China’s foreign policy that Deng Xiaoping, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, had proposed: to “hide our capabilities and bide our time.” The article pointed out, “After China started its economic reforms and opened to the world, China stopped using its (Communist) ideological standards to deal with other countries. This has successfully reversed the diplomatic situation, which has been unfavorable to China.” It continued that China’s foreign policy is to “hide the (Communist) ideology and modernize China according to its plans while other countries are in chaos.”
“Sino-US relations can usually move forward when a ‘third party trouble maker’ appears. Once the ‘third party’ (Ed: such as bin Laden) disappears, the Sino-US relationship becomes problematic.” The article concludesd that the foreign policy “hide our capabilities and bide our time” is very important and necessary when China is in the process of integrating into the international system, since the U.S. foreign policy is more ideologically based when no third party trouble makers are around. “To create a favorable international environment to develop our domestic economy, we should continue to hide our (Communist) ideology so as to minimize the differences (between the U.S. and China).”
[Editor: “Hide one’s capabilities and bide one’s time” (or “hide one’s ambitions and disguise one’s claws”) comes from a well-known Chinese historical novel, "The Three Kingdoms" based on real stories from the end of the Han Dynasty (25 AD-220 AD) to the Three Kingdoms era (220 AD- 280 AD) of Chinese history. The kings of the Three Kingdoms were Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan. When Liu Bei was seeking refuge in Cao Cao’s territory, he was afraid that Cao Cao would kill him if he did not hide his ambition to unite the whole nation and become king. By working hard in his backyard vegetable garden every day and pretending to be cowardly, he successfully misled Cao Cao, who no long viewed Liu as a competitor. Liu Bei’s strategy was called “hide one’s ambitions and disguise one’s claws” (or “hide one’s capabilities and bide one’s time”).
Source: Study Times, November 7, 2011