A readable, balanced approach, situated between the pessimists and the optimists, to determining the answer to a crucial question: is China poised to take over the world?
The short answer is no, according to eminent China expert Christensen (Director, China and the New World Program/Princeton Univ.; Worse Than a Monolith: Alliance Politics and Problems of Coercive Diplomacy in Asia, 2011, etc.). In this well-honed study, which skillfully steers between the author’s reasoned argument and opposing views by equally accredited experts (e.g., Martin Jacques, Arvind Subramanian, David Shambaugh), Christensen acknowledges the “real” rise in China’s wealth, diplomatic influence, and military power since 1978. However, he emphasizes the factors keeping China behind American supremacy for the foreseeable future—namely, relative military weakness, economic structural problems, lack of innovation and independent academic research institutions, corruption, and the strength of the U.S.–Asian alliance network created after World War II. Christensen first explores a historical consideration: why the precipitous rise of China will not destabilize the world in the same dangerous fashion as the rise of modern Germany or Japan—because globalization has rendered economies more tightknit (China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001) and because invasion and territorial expansion are no longer in countries’ best interests. (The author does look carefully at the disputed South and East China Sea territorial claims, troublesome strategic hotspots.) Yet in order to embrace its stature as the world’s largest economy—necessary for stability and world order—China has to step up in terms of global investment, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid. In the second part of his useful study, Christensen sifts through Chinese behavior in each of these facets since 1991. While Chinese leadership values stability above all, it can no longer “hide its brightness” and get a pass on environmental pollution and aiding outlaw regimes in North Korea and Iran.
Convincing arguments by a thoughtful, cool-headed China expert.