A formal, severe dressing-down of China’s global influence.
A prominent scholar of contemporary Chinese studies, Shambaugh (Political Science and International Affairs/George Washington Univ.; China’s Communist Party, 2008, etc.) fashions an academic framework on the state of Chinese global relations, concluding from ample evidence that China’s impact is far more limited than alarmist predictions have maintained. The historical Chinese sense of the nation’s centrality and superiority continues to create conflicts within and abroad. China has no allies, writes the author, rarely takes an active role in solving world problems and maintains a political system no one wants to emulate. Its “soft power” in terms of its cultural exports is weak, except perhaps in tourism, cyberhacking and art purchasing. The Chinese government’s conflicted sense of how to engage in the wider world is revealed in its sense of insularity, paranoia and desire to “hide its brightness” on the one hand, and need to take on wider global responsibilities as the world’s second largest economy on the other. Although an economic superpower, “a workshop of the world,” chiefly in exports of “low-end consumer products,” Shambaugh finds China’s “economic footprint” in terms of trade, energy and investment fairly limited. The author finds China admirably evolving from “passive actor to a selective activist” since the 1980s, yet it is still uncomfortable accepting “liberal norms” generally agreed on by other leading nations. Shambaugh examines in depth the various schools of thought about how to manage China over the decades—e.g., nativist, realist and globalist—and he asserts that the most effective approach is to continue to integrate China within the liberal institutional infrastructure of the international community.
A mostly academic look at why China’s “rise” is only partial.