Wide-ranging study of China’s re-emergence as a regional power in Asia after a long hiatus, thwarting the designs of other powers, including the United States and Russia.
The presence of the U.S. in Asia, Chinese leaders argue, is a matter of choice. China’s presence, conversely, is a “geopolitical reality.” So writes journalist McGregor (The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers, 2010) in this far-reaching exploration of how China has been building influence in Asia while at the same time frustrating Washington’s efforts to assert American superpower dominance—and even resisting it, as in a recent instance in which China seized territory claimed by the Philippines, when “Washington was outmaneuvered in what for the United States was a clarifying moment.” The author further triangulates this rise with the recent re-emergence of Japan as a military presence in the region—though, as he notes, China has been taking pains to improve relations with Japan, even as it asserts territorial claims in the East China Sea. It was for that reason that Barack Obama spent so much time cultivating Shinzo Abe and was “willing to put his personal reservations…aside to work more closely with the Japanese prime minister.” Not so Obama’s successor, who has been sending mixed signals to both Japan and China, threatening to cancel trade agreements and demanding that Asian nations in the American sphere pay more for their own defense. The U.S. is therefore firmly ensnared in the so-called Thucydides trap, “the principle that it is dangerous to build an empire but even more dangerous to let it go.” So it is, and the current leadership appears to be at a loss about what to do or to formulate other aspects of any coherent policy in and toward Asia.
Geopolitics wonks will want to give attention to this urgent but nonsensationalized argument.