China Goes Global: The Partial Power Hardcover – 7 Mar 2013
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a fascinating and scholarly challenge to the received wisdom about China's rise, and an important critique of the accepted narrative of Chinese expansionism. (The Economist)
Highly recommended. (S.K. Ma, CHOICE)
one of the most serious studies of contemporary China ... Given its mastery of an enormous quantity of information and theoretical insights, the book is of value to both experts in scholarly and policy fields, and general readers. (Wenshan Jia, Journal of Chinese Political Science)
About the Author
David Shambaugh is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs and Director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University. He is also Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. Professor Shambaugh is a recognized international authority and author on China. His most recent books include Charting China's Future: Domestic & International Challenges; China's Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation; International Politics of Asia; and Power Shift: China and Asia's New Dynamics. He also previously served as Editor of The China Quarterly (the world's leading journal of contemporary Chinese studies).
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Top Customer Reviews
As a scholar of Chinese politics, I particularly appreciated the analysis of Chinese academia's view of things, which gives us the view from the other side of the fence, rarely to be found in standard Western literature. Also very useful was the frequent use of Chinese terminology (including characters) for familiar IR concepts such as soft power, peaceful rise, and so on.
Highly recommended to Sinophiles, Sinologists, and anybody simply interested in the most important real-life story of our age.
Although China's impact is widely felt in many areas, not least of which is the economic realm, Shambaugh provides various case studies throughout the book that show that China's impact is not yet on a par with the United States, and that proclamations like "rule the world" (a counterargument to Martin Jacques's best seller) are at this stage, premature.
China has an ambivalent, and in some ways, half-hearted approach to global governance, and it's impact is rarely felt in areas that do not coincide with it's core interests. This in many ways aligns with it's comparatively slow awakening on the global scene, with the early years of the PRC being insular and inward looking, followed by Deng Xiaoping's dictum of keeping a low profile.
While many differing voices exist, and are examined within this book, many of which call for a more strident, aggressive posture on the world stage, Chinese foreign policy remains largely a purely realist school of thought, with a general ambivalence toward involvement in areas far beyond it's orbit, although this is gradually changing.
China's economic impact, and the power prediction of it's military are examined in detail, and this also shows that China is still a partial power. The military lacks the means for extensive power prediction, as opposed to the US, and China still lacks a full Blue Water Navy.Read more ›
On the minus side, an almost total lack of explanations, conclusions.
Reads more like a recipe than a gastronomical review.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In his book China Goes Global, the Partial Power, David Shambaugh, a China expert at George Washington University, acknowledges China's epochal metamorphosis from one of the poorest and, some would argue, insignificant countries in the world to one of the wealthiest. He calls this transformation, as many have before him, the "big story of our time." Yet Shambaugh does not subscribe to the hype about China's global dominance, either present or forthcoming. He writes: "Some observers have already proclaimed that China will rule the world, This prospective is profoundly overstated and incorrect in my view. ......China has a long way to go before it becomes, if it ever becomes a true Global power. And it will never rule the world."
Shambaugh argues convincingly that China's global presence nowadays is in his words "shallow." Not only does China not have strong international alliances, say the way US and other western Countries do ( Chinese strongest alliances are often with closed failed states like North Korea, and Russia), but China ranks very low on many surveys which measure a country's global standing and effectiveness. Where other nations are committed to international humanitarian causes, the sole purpose of China's global undertakings Shambaugh argues is to bolster its own economy and it seldom if ever takes initiative in solving global problems e.g. environmental problems.
And the Chinese economy is not what it seems according to Shambaugh. China's global dominance in exports is largely owing to Chinese Government policies which have artificially given Chinese makers an advantage over manufacturers in other countries e.g. currency manipulation that keeps the RMB undervalued and subsidies of SOE ( state owned enterprises). Shambaugh also argues that China;s main exports are low-value consumer goods and that China lags far behind real global powers like the US and Japan in terms of exporting financial services and high value products. All of these are valid criticisms.
One reason that China has failed to export its financial services sector to other countries is that management in Chinese companies is often mired in inefficiency and lacks a true global mindset. And this explains why so many of China's international Mergers and Acquisitions - a lot in recent years - are failing. I would have to say that I think Shambaugh is onto something here. Although I have seen China vendor performance improve over the last 20 years e.g. vendors are more upfront about their capabilities than they used to be, working with China vendors is half of the time an exercise in frustration. Vendors still refuse to take responsibility for a mistake, think nothing about misleading customers and if they do not like the project you are offering them they will simply not reply. In my own dealings with vendors in China I often feel that I am dealing with the same people I was dealing with 20 years ago. Progress can be very slow.
As I near the end of China Goes Global I find myself thinking back to a visit to Guangzhou a couple of years ago. I was standing at my hotel window one morning admiring the Guangzhou cityscape which seems to grow taller with each visit of mine to that city. On the expressway below me I spotted a car backing up on the shoulder of the road, an inherently dangerous maneuver. Obviously the driver had gotten off at the wrong exit and rather than get off at the next exit and go back, they had decided it was easier to back up on the expressway. I saw this vignette as being very emblematic of modern China: Progress all around but prevailing attitudes and customs which belie that progress. And this is Shambaugh's point. China changes but it remains the same.
Still, in the end I am not sure that Shambaugh is not being a little reckless with his claim that China will never `rule the world.' When he writes this I cannot help but think back that day in 1990 when I stood on the main road in Pudong and waited for over an hour for a bus that was not dangerously overcrowded (seven busses in all). If someone had told me as I waited on the dusty road where bicycles outnumbered cars 500-1 that in a space of 20 years Pudong would be one of the financial capitals of Asia ( where cars probably now outnumber bicycles 500-1) I would not have believed them. But it happened. So if China one day "rules the world" or does not, only time will tell.
Mr. Shambaugh explores the diplomatic, economic, cultural, and military footprints of China around the world to prove to his readers that China is only a partial power in each of these four dimensions.
1) Diplomatically, China comes out as risk-averse and narrowly self-absorbed. The country is primarily concerned with domestic economic development and the image and longevity of the ruling Communist Party. China has shown both little interest in global governance and discomfort with the liberal international order set by the West after WWII.
2) Economically, China increasingly has a decisive influence on global trade and the imports of energy and raw materials through its mercantilism. However, Chinese outbound investments and multinationals have not yet had much impact on the rest of the world. Similarly, China's aid programs reflect both a lack of size commensurate with its status of world's second-largest economy and a frequent non-compliance with international donor standards.
3) Culturally, China is not generating emulation because of the sui generis nature of its culture and the lack of a transferrable economic experience. Nonetheless, the country has a clear impact on tourism and art purchasing around the world.
4) Militarily, China does not come even close to the U.S. in conventional global power-projection capacities. However, China qualifies as a global power in the areas of missile forces, space-based capabilities, and cyber forces. Furthermore, China has not been good at cultivating allies as the U.S. has done due to its erratic, inconsistent foreign policies over time.
Therefore, Mr. Shambaugh invites his audience to rethink the rise of China. He agrees with Joseph Nye that the greatest danger is that China overestimates itself and the U.S. overestimates China, especially in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008.
Finally, Mr. Shambaugh succinctly explains to his readers that the realist, liberal, and constructivist mainstream international relations schools seek to condition and shape China's rise. He calls for fine-tuning the efficacy, logic, and strategy of integrating China into the institutions, rules, laws, and norms of the international community. Therefore, Mr. Shambaugh emphasizes training schemes for Chinese professionals more carefully focused on the key areas of civil society, media, rule of law, government transparency, human rights, and global governance.
In summary, Mr. Shambaugh convincingly demonstrates that China is only a partial power diplomatically, economically, culturally, and militarily whose integration into the international community is a work in progress.
In China Goes Global, Shambaugh expounds on the idea that China is not significantly influencing world affairs and that it remains a partial power - as opposed to a true global superpower like the United States, which sets the norm of what nascent powers like China should aspire to become. In field after field of global activity, China is compared to the standard set by the US, and fails the test by a wide margin. In multilateral diplomacy, contribution to global public goods, global business and investment, ODA policy, culture and soft power, security and military affairs, the conclusion remains the same: China "punches below its weight", is "not carrying proportionate international responsibility", and remains "a partial power". Even economically - the one area where one would expect China to be a global trendsetter - we find that China's impact is much more shallow than anticipated. Shambaugh concedes that "only in some sectors does China actually exercise global influence: global trade patterns, global energy and commodity markets, the global tourism industry, global sales of luxury goods, global real estate purchases, and cyber hacking."
Throughout the book, China's outward performance is evaluated on a scale and according to criteria dictated by the dominant power. Indeed, there a subtle irony at work in China's vying for international status: China aspires to be a global player, but the rules of the game are set in a way that protects the incumbents against outside competition. The international rankings, the evaluation benchmarks, the concepts used to discuss global influence all incorporate subtle biases and in-built preferences that tilt the playing field toward one camp at the expense of the other. Nowhere does the author envisage that the rules of the game may evolve and be changed when a new set of players enter the fray, or that they may begin to play an entirely different game. The assumption is that America's approach of pursuing a broad base of influence continues to be effective, and that it shows the direction others should follow to claim a similar degree of influence for themselves.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the discussion on soft power. The concept has been espoused enthusiastically by Chinese scholars and policymakers. Everybody laments China's lack of soft power, explains this deficit by cultural, economical, or political arguments, and offers recipes on how to build it. But as Shambaugh reminds his readers, Joseph Nye's concept of soft power is "largely about the capacity of a society to attract others, rather than a government to persuade others." As a consequence, Beijing's effort at seeking influence through public diplomacy and cultural presence is useless, and may even be counterproductive. Soft power, like good taste or proper manners, is "not something that can be bought with money or built with investment." It is the code of honor that incumbent powers post against the new rich in order to limit access to the club.
Soft power exerts a subtle form of cultural hegemony, defined as the diffusion of values that ensure the social reproduction of the ruling elite. By putting soft power outside the purview of government policy and squarely on the side of civil society, Joseph Nye and his epigones merely reproduce an American model in which the promotion of cultural assets is carried out by the private sector, with minimal state intervention. Looking at cultural policies throughout the world, this model is the exception rather than the norm. The "cultural exception" touted by French politicians only states a "new normal": massive public involvement in the promotion of culture, language and values that are competing for a place in the battle of ideas.
One strength of the book is that it quotes many Chinese scholars and politicians, and attributes the ideas expressed to their original author. Many Chinese experts thus emphasize that China still hasn't achieved global preeminence, and that it may be set on a different course than previous patterns of hegemony. For instance, vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai states that "China's position is far behind the United States. We are not a peer of the United States... We have no intention to compete for global leadership." Or a MOFA official: "We are not very good at public diplomacy, of telling our positions to the world. It is important to tell the world what we are doing, but we don't know how to tell our story effectively." Or Yuan Xuetong, from Tsinghua university: "China is not prepared for world leadership." Indeed, these positions are expounded in the White Paper on Peaceful Development published in 2011, and from which the author draws a few excerpts. "China's peaceful development has broken away from the traditional pattern where a rising power was bound to seek hegemony." "For China, the most populous country, to run itself well is the most important fulfillment of its international responsibility."
What are we to make of such quotes? First, and this should have been underscored more forcefully by the author, China is in a league of her own as a 1.3 billion-strong developing country. Unilaterally, China makes an important contribution to global governance by effectively governing itself. On global health issues for instance, China has an important role to play merely by maintaining a careful watch over transmittable diseases at home, and by publicizing the results. Having lifted 660 million people out of poverty since 1981, China's contribution to global development dwarfs all the achievement publicized by the aid community. China's adoption of world standards such as trade rules or corporate governance principles makes them truly universal, and Beijing's participation in global forums like the G20 increase their legitimacy and representativeness.
As effective as China becomes in "telling its own story", its image will always be shaped by outside perceptions. Chinese experts' modesty in assessing their country's outward performance may be seen as a cultural trait. Confucian scholars value humility and self-restraint, and are educated in the virtues of collective endeavors. Instead of taking pride in their past achievements, they emphasize the part of the journey that remains to be travelled. But their lack of pretention can also be construed as a ploy to hide China's underlying strength and to bid time in their strategy for global preeminence. Conversely, when a Chinese representative brags about his country's performance and others' failures (as became more common after the financial crisis and global economic slowdown), outsiders are the first to denounce his arrogance. Indeed, Shambaugh popularizes the notion that, beginning in mid 2009 and lasting through the end of 2010, Beijing moved to a more assertive stance on the regional and world stage. The idea that 2010 represented a turning point known as the "year of assertiveness" was recently debunked by Harvard scholar Alastair Iain Johnston, who showed that this misperception was largely a reflect of punditry and the blogosphere's new importance in foreign policy debates.
According to one American scholar quoted by Shambaugh, China needs a foreign policy `reset'. But looking at the way things go, it is the whole international system that needs a reset. To make such a claim turns one into what Shambaugh labels a revisionist, as opposed to a supporter of the status quo. But the status quo is simply not viable and cannot endure. Consider the following:
. A world where Chinese consumers enjoy the same lifestyle as Americans would need two extra planets to sustain itself. Natural resources are not inexhaustible, and carbon emissions cannot be doubled without causing massive damage to the planet.
. The international system was never bipolar; it was divided into two camps. To have two or more powers pursuing a strategy of global influence makes the system highly unstable. To provide some degree of stability and predictability, the system must coalesce around one equilibrium.
. The theory of power transition, whereby a rising power inevitably challenges the incumbent, cannot hold in an age of nuclear weapons and global interconnectedness. If China and the United States enter into conflict with each other, it will be over regional issues like Taiwan or North Korea, and not because of a contest for world supremacy.
When the fool points to the moon, the sage looks at the finger, shrugs his shoulders, and invents a telescope. China is a game-changer, and its entry into the field is changing the rules by which the game is played. To assess China's global presence by existing standards and criteria is to miss the mark by a wide margin. The book on the consequences of China going global remains to be written.
The first chapter focuses on China's global identity. It discusses how China does not have a global identity per se and has various perspectives within the country that drive the rhetoric that we often hear. The strength of the party is considered to be a function of focusing the nationalistic pride of the population against the century of humiliation that was endured and so one often hears conflicting messages from China, some catering to domestic nationalism while others to the international audience. The book then goes on to discuss the diplomatic presence and global presense. The author gives the history of the opening of China from Mao to Deng. The history with Russia and then the US is discussed. The author discusses how China is a part of the multinational world but acts in a very bilateral sense. Its voting patterns in the UN general assembly are extremely low overlap with countries like the US vs Russia for example whereas in the security counsel it has higher overlap. The author sees China acting on its narrow self interest and prefering abstention over action. The view that China has no interest in interfering with other sovereign states is argued quite persuasively. The next big topic tackled is China's economic presence. China is now the world's second largest economy and the growth of its economy has motivated both fear and wonder. Its impact on resources is detailed as are the elements of its business and the organization of the economy. It discusses the breadth of China's multinational corporations or lack thereof in many cases including the SOE sector. The author then discusses culture and soft power. China wants to be better understood culturally and would like to deploy more "soft power" as a function of being better understood. The author gives a detailed analysis of the various policy bodies and institutes that exist for these goals. The author also notes that they have largely been ineffective. Finally the author discusses China's growing military capabilites. China currently has the 2nd largest military budget in the world at over 100 billion USD and its technology is rapidly moving up the information frontier. The army, navy and airforce are all discussed. The author also discusses cyberwarfare and China's prominence in that field currently.
The author concludes that China is a growing power but it is a partial power. He sees China as having little global influence and being risk averse and narrowly self interested in its diplomacy. The economic weight of China and its influence on the global economy is far in excess of its political influence. The author argues that China has little to no soft power as few want to emulate China despite its success and its military evolution though impressive has little to no international reach. The author argues China will continue to be a world player but it is far from a world leader. China goes Global is a welcome addition to the literature on China, it is detailed and well argued and the authors examples are very convincing. One learns a lot about the internal conflicts and inconsistencies in policy and politics but also gets a sense of how these have come to exist. In terms of China as a model for others, it is hard to argue with the author that China has no soft power in the west as its economic engine though enviable is not interesting while embedded in its overall institutional arrangement. I do think much of the developing world though does look to China as an example of a successful way to grow out of poverty so its a bit overly critical and contextual from a western perspective. All in all this was a good addition to the literature which brings the euphoria of China's rise back down and closer to reality.
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