This article looks at the influence of ancient military thinkers, especially Sunzi, in Chinese strategic culture today to shed light on a critical aspect of Alastair Iain Johnston’s work on strategic culture: the relationship between the foreign policy elites and the cultural artefacts and symbols at the origin of strategic culture. The empirical analysis revolves around a large number of articles published by Chinese military scholars and officers between 1992 and early 2016 in the PLA Academy of Military Science’s journal, China Military Science. The conclusion is that some elements of Chinese ancient military thought are readily apparent in China’s military doctrine and operations today. These elements clearly call for a realist vision of the world, especially within the PLA. Yet, the analysis also prompts reflection on how to positively engage China on non-traditional security issues.