A brief consideration of the current state of Sino-American relations.
In his sixth book, Bloomberg View columnist Feldman (International Law/Harvard Univ.; The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, 2008, etc.) analyzes the increasingly fraught relationship between the United States and China in the 21st century. Although some may wonder whether or not this slim book might have been better justified as a work of long-form magazine journalism or as a scholarly journal article, Feldman is a sensitive and incisive observer of what he has coined the “Cool War” between the two countries. The author explains that the Cool War manifests itself in the form of tense mutual economic interdependence and tendentious struggles for geopolitical power. A crisp writer, Feldman has a fine eye for telling anecdotes, which he uses to frame nearly every chapter. He breaks the book down into three sections. In the first, “Cool War,” he lays out the paradox of Chinese-American relations. In the second, “The Sources of Chinese Conduct,” he effectively provides a primer of contemporary Chinese politics for the overwhelmingly American audience that will make up his readership. In the third section, “Global Competition,” he examines the main sources of conflict that we will face in the future. Neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic, Feldman lays out a compelling case for why the neither-allies-nor-enemies standing between the two powers is tenuous but not necessarily doomed to topple into hot war.
Current affairs books always run the risk of going rather quickly from the New Releases shelf to the remainder bin, but Feldman’s book carries enough insight to warrant serious attention from anyone interested in what may well be the defining relationship in global affairs for decades to come.