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The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategyby Edward N. Luttwak
Synopses & Reviews
As the rest of the world worries about what a future might look like under Chinese supremacy, Edward Luttwak worries about China's own future prospects. Applying the logic of strategy for which he is well known, Luttwak argues that the most populous nation on Earth--and its second largest economy--may be headed for a fall.
For any country whose rising strength cannot go unnoticed, the universal logic of strategy allows only military or economic growth. But China is pursuing both goals simultaneously. Its military buildup and assertive foreign policy have already stirred up resistance among its neighbors, just three of whom--India, Japan, and Vietnam--together exceed China in population and wealth. Unless China's leaders check their own ambitions, a host of countries, which are already forming tacit military coalitions, will start to impose economic restrictions as well.
Chinese leaders will find it difficult to choose between pursuing economic prosperity and increasing China's military strength. Such a change would be hard to explain to public opinion. Moreover, Chinese leaders would have to end their reliance on ancient strategic texts such as Sun Tzu's Art of War. While these guides might have helped in diplomatic and military conflicts within China itself, their tactics--such as deliberately provoking crises to force negotiations--turned China's neighbors into foes. To avoid arousing the world's enmity further, Luttwak advises, Chinese leaders would be wise to pursue a more sustainable course of economic growth combined with increasing military and diplomatic restraint.
"In this frequently bewildering jeremiad, controversial military strategist Luttwak argues that China's rise as a world power is ultimately unsustainable. Luttwak laments the 'sad, even sinister consequences that must ensue if China's rapid advance were to collide with the paradoxical logic of strategy,' namely, that uncontrolled Chinese military growth will induce other states to align against China, consequently provoking conflict. Using frequent bullet points and repetitive language, he builds an intriguing if tendentious case that 'the logic of strategy cannot be linear: a rising military threat normally stiffens resistance against it.' Eschewing 99% of the classical literature in international relations — even game theory is conspicuously absent — Luttwak promptly blends his deterministic thesis with a sparsely argued belief that China's policy makers are congenitally influenced by their Han heritage (in particular Sun Tzu's The Art of War), putting them at a disadvantage. What Luttwak calls 'great-state autism' may cause the Chinese to alienate their allies and enrage their enemies with endless blunders and faux pas. The book's second half is a dreary litany of the ways that China's diplomatic strategy has backfired, from the dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands to China's adolescent temper tantrum following the news that Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Luttwak does little to connect all these incidents to the broader thrust of his book." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
As the rest of the world worries about what a future might look like under Chinese supremacy, Luttwak worries about China's own future prospects. Applying the logic of strategy for which he is well known, he argues that the world's second largest economy may be headed for a fall unless China's leaders check their military ambitions.
In November 2010, President Barack Obama claimed during his state visit to India that India has "already emerged" as a great power. His view is shared by many world leaders who believe that India's impressive economic and industrial growth and potential, its professional and modernizing military, its rapidly increasing ties with the United States and other armed forces in the extended region, and its expanding soft power presence in the world (information technology prowess, Bollywood films and music) are evidence of the country's inevitable rise.
However, there is more to India's story than unimpeded forward progress, as Bharat Karnad explains in India's Rise. Based on extensive interviews with civilian and military policymakers, this book provides a sobering examination of the country's obvious deficits in hard power capabilities, its overly bureaucratized system of government, and other systemic constraints that are exacerbated by policy infirmities, unacceptable levels of poverty, political and social fragmentation, corruption, and conspicuously poor governance.
Karnad maintains that India must make radical improvements in addressing those deficits, capitalize on opportunities economically to co-opt the neighboring states and forge security relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, and deliver good governance at the grassroots. If India follows Karnad's recommendations, it may well achieve its aspirations on the world stage.
About the Author
Edward N. Luttwak is a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Center for Strategic and International Studies
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History and Social Science » Asia » China » Peoples Republic 1949 to Present