The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power

The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0393352994

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“A standout . . . a balanced, informative, and highly intelligent guide to dealing with China.”―Fareed Zakaria

Many see China as a rival superpower to the United States and imagine the country’s rise to be a threat to U.S. leadership in Asia and beyond. Thomas J. Christensen argues against this zero-sum vision. Instead, he describes a new paradigm in which the real challenge lies in dissuading China from regional aggression while encouraging the country to contribute to the global order. Drawing on decades of scholarship and experience as a senior diplomat, Christensen offers a compelling new assessment of U.S.-China relations that is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the globalized world.

The China Challenge shows why China is nowhere near powerful enough to be considered a global “peer competitor” of the United States, but it is already strong enough to destabilize East Asia and to influence economic and political affairs worldwide. Despite China’s impressive achievements, the Chinese Communist Party faces enormous challenges. Christensen shows how nationalism and the threat of domestic instability influence the party’s decisions on issues like maritime sovereignty disputes, global financial management, control of the Internet, climate change, and policies toward Taiwan and Hong Kong.

China benefits enormously from the current global order and has no intention of overthrowing it; but that is not enough. China’s active cooperation is essential to global governance. Never before has a developing country like China been asked to contribute so much to ensure international stability. If China obstructs international efforts to confront nuclear proliferation, civil conflicts, financial instability, and climate change, those efforts will falter, but even if China merely declines to support such efforts, the problems will grow vastly more complicated.

Analyzing U.S.-China policy since the end of the Cold War, Christensen articulates a balanced strategic approach that explains why we should aim not to block China’s rise but rather to help shape its choices so as to deter regional aggression and encourage China’s active participation in international initiatives that benefit both nations.

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have no incentive and no credible threat to invade and occupy each other as they had in the past. Even if we were to accept Mearsheimer’s outdated logic about a zero-sum Sino-American power competition, an active attempt by Washington to harm the Chinese economy and isolate China diplomatically whenever possible, as the United States did to the Soviet Union in the Cold War era, would be extremely ill advised. A straightforward containment effort toward China today would almost certainly fail 50. See Tai-ming Cheung, “What the J-20 Says About China’s Defense Sector,” China Real Time Report, January 13, 2011; see also Phillip C. Saunders and Joshua K. Wiseman, Buy, Build, or Steal: China’s Quest for Advanced Military Aviation Technologies (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2011). 51. Zachary Fryer Biggs, “U.S. Military Goes on Cyber Offensive,” Defense News, March 24, 2012,

institutions in the past few decades, and for the first time university professors can live solidly middle-class lives in China’s largest cities. But Chinese academic culture emphasizes numerical measures of success, such as quantity of publications, rather than originality of thought. It has neither well-developed professional norms nor regulatory oversight to prevent fraud, plagiarism, or other forms of intellectual property theft. Without such institutions, China is unlikely to produce top

around the country because drivers had trouble seeing oncoming cars even during normal daylight hours. The government was surprisingly open and self-critical in reporting the issues.50 That experience gave me some hope that perhaps the ground-level air pollution crisis in China would motivate Beijing to address global warming issues at the same time. My hopes were greatly tempered when I returned home and hosted a meeting at Princeton of physical and social scientists wrestling with the issue of

Chinese solar panels, cells, and wafers in mid-2013 in retaliation, China suggested it might retaliate against the European wine industry, with negative repercussions for Italy and France. Even the biggest victim of Chinese dumping within the EU, Germany, was reluctant to level tariffs because of potential retaliation by China against German machine exports. As a result, the two sides were able to settle the dispute several weeks later in terms considered largely favorable to Chinese

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