From the former New York Times Asia correspondent and author of China's Second Continent, an incisive investigation of China's ideological development as it becomes an ever more aggressive player in regional and global diplomacy.
For many years after its reform and opening in 1978, China maintained an attitude of false modesty about its ambitions. That role, reports Howard French, has been set aside. China has asserted its place among the global heavyweights, revealing its plans for pan-Asian dominance by building its navy, increasing territorial claims to areas like the South China Sea, and diplomatically bullying smaller players. Underlying this attitude is a strain of thinking that casts China's present-day actions in decidedly historical terms, as the path to restoring the dynastic glory of the past. If we understand how that historical identity relates to current actions, in ways ideological, philosophical, and even legal, we can learn to forecast just what kind of global power China stands to become--and to interact wisely with a future peer.
Steeped in deeply researched history as well as on-the-ground reporting, this is French at his revelatory best.
Former New York Times Asia correspondent French (China's Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa) provides a "cultural and historical view of China's approach to geostrategic power" in this nuanced look at a rival superpower. The detail of his scholarship and reporting is matched by the suppleness of his prose, which turns what could have been dry analysis into an accessible volume. French more than makes the case for the importance of increased awareness among Americans of China's intentions, despite the minimal attention U.S.-Sino relations receive in the press or on the campaign stump; he persuasively claims that China's ultimate objective is to supplant "American power and influence in as an irreplaceable stepping-stone along the way to becoming a true global power in the twenty-first century." The book examines the past and present of China's interactions with its neighbors while taking a balanced view of China's economic and demographic challenges. French believes that China's threat to the U.S. is a manageable one, best handled by taking steps to make it a full participant in the international community. This will be a useful, and necessary, starting point for informed discussion.