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China's rise, Asia's future.

Muthiah Alagappa, ed., Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2003).

Peter Gries, China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics and Diplomacy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

Samuel Kim, ed., The International Relations of Northeast Asia (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004).

Wang Yizhou, ed., Construction Within Contradiction: Multiple Perspectives on the Relationship Between China and International Organizations (Beijing: Development Publishing House, 2003).

Since the return of the People's Republic of China (PRC) to world power, analysts have debated the implications of the rise of China for the future of its region and the world. At polar ends of the spectrum, some imagine a China-US war as almost inevitable, while others see China peacefully integrating with, and economically dynamizing, the international system. Many views fall in between the two extremes. While it is impossible to know the future with certainty when so much can turn on contingent factors, a consideration of these four excellent books can help clarify the assumptions that lie behind the diverse prognoses on the consequences of China's return to world-power status.

The Canadian international relations specialist Alistair Iain Johnston is pessimistic (Kim, ch. 2; Wang, pp. 314-328). He finds that since China terrorized Taiwan with missiles during Taiwan's first-ever popular election of a democratic president in 1996, hard-liners in the United States overreacted and pushed matters in the wrong direction. The Americans were convinced that China had become a revisionist power and a threat to the regional peace. They did not understand, Johnston argues, that China's Taiwan policy is an anomaly. To Johnston, China would be a benign, status quo nation integrating with global institutions if it were permitted to do so.

But China's hard-liners, seeing the United States treat China as a threat, concluded that America's real purpose in sending aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait region in response to the PRC missile exercises was not the defense of Taiwan. It was not regional security or deterring war--it was undermining China's ruling party in order to democratize and split China to prevent its return to glory. Johnston does not explain how aircraft carriers would democratize China, but he argues that a security dilemma had been created and the possibility of a vicious cycle increased. The war-prone response of each to the defensive moves of the other makes invisible China's and the United States' actual overlapping interests, which, if they were the basis of cooperative action, could produce win-win outcomes. (1) Neither side prioritizes policies and behavior that might end the vicious cycle.

US analyst Peter Gries is also worried. But in contrast to Johnston, who focuses on the Taiwan factor since 1996, Gries finds the turning point in Beijing's response to the global wave of democratization that gained momentum in the 1980s and became particularly sensitive in the immediate post-Tiananmen period--that is, after June 4, 1989. The fall of so many Communist Party (CP)--led authoritarian regimes felt to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) like a threat to its Leninist party regime. The source of the danger, for Gries, is not US and Chinese mutual misperceptions and an out-of-control security dilemma but politics inside China: "After the 1989 Tiananmen massacre [of democracy supporters], the Chinese Communist Party stepped up efforts to marshal the past to bolster its legitimacy." (2) Nationalism trumped a desire for democracy. Chinese were subsequently socialized to see Japan, the United States, and Taiwan as beasts, devils, and troublemakers. The government fostered an irredentist nationalism in the early 1990s (pp. 73, 74) when the CCP opted (in 1991-1992) to build missiles and deploy them (starting in 1994) to coerce democratic Taiwan into surrendering to China. Even Singapore's preeminent spokesman, Lee Kuan Yew, grew nervous about where Chinese politics was headed. He gave voice to his concerns when the CCP made life miserable for Singapore after it sent a private emissary to Taiwan and after the CCP launched racist attacks on Japanese in China in April 2005.

Yet, the CCP government presents itself to the world as fixated on facing daunting challenges at home. These priority matters require a peaceful international environment conducive to the high growth needed to keep China stable. All contributors agree that the CCP seeks good economic relations with the United States, Japan, and Taiwan--indeed, with virtually all nations in the region. In addition to the Johnston and Gries views that forces for war are growing in US-China relations or in domestic Chinese politics, most of the analysts in these books actually are not at all worried that war-prone forces will win out. In contrast to Johnston and Gries, they see benign international forces as decisive.

The Muthiah Alagappa book, an intellectual feast, offers a theory that opposes the anxious scenarios of Johnston and Gries. It is frequently the case that governments worried about the rise of a nontransparent challenger will make worst-case assumptions about actual yet hidden intentions. This is how security dilemmas and vicious cycles grow out of control. But Alagappa invites his contributors to test a hypothesis: that the "ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Way" can socialize China to acting on norms that guarantee peace, prosperity, and pluralism and moreover that this process is already occurring. (3) Alagappa finds that socialization to the ASEAN Way "marginalizes the use of force," keeping it limited to "military skirmishes in peripheral areas." Force is merely used for "preserving the stalemate" in the Korean Peninsula and deterring war "in the India-Pakistan conflict." China is a "status quo power" restrained by its economic stake in the region (p. 585).

As a result, Alagappa, like Johnston and Samuel Kim, is less worried about Beijing than about right-wingers and hard-liners in Washington, Tokyo, and Taipei. ASEAN thinkers cannot see how US-style engagement will integrate China peacefully. Alagappa doubts that US policy seems peaceful to powerholders in Beijing. CCP leaders dismiss US engagement as an anti-China plot and instead treat most US economic and societal initiatives as Trojan horses. Worse yet, the US military balancing of China in the region is seen in Beijing as a threat to deny China control of contested energy resources in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, part of an effort to keep China from becoming the great power it should be. The result is a Chinese response, a tit-for-tat security dilemma that could, just as Johnston argues, spiral dangerously out of control.

Can the ASEAN Way tame these war-prone forces? To authors in the Alagappa book, the ASEAN Way is the only and best approach for keeping the peace. The most succinct description of the ASEAN Way is offered by Brian Job (Alagappa, ch. 7). It is "soft regionalism, multilateralism, inclusion of the non-like-minded, avoidance of confrontation and arbitration, decision making by consensus, and an aversion to formal institutions and agenda setting" (p. 245). The most elegant statement and analysis of the ASEAN Way and its preferability in the Alagappa book comes from the Australian researcher Amitav Acharya (ch. 6). He elucidates how the ASEAN Way of using soft institutions to create a consensus against the use of force would enmesh China in a spiderlike web of almost invisible constraints. It would not be objectionable to the CCP or Chinese patriots because the ASEAN Way both maximizes sovereignty and promotes economic growth.

But are ASEAN-style constraints in fact responsible for dynamizing regional relations? And, more generally, did similar economic stakes in Europe early in the twentieth century guarantee that war was impossible? Acharya discovers that the ASEAN Way is in fact not succeeding. China "has not accepted" ASEAN constraints on irredentism (p. 223). "China's refusal to rule out forcible assimilation of Taiwan ... limits the relevance of ... promoting this [ASEAN] norm" (p. 226). With China also refusing to compromise on its sovereign claims to the South China Sea, Spratly Islands, and the food nutrients and energy resources of the region, Acharya is worried about the security dilemma consequences of the United States seeking to balance Chinese power in the region, precisely the concerns raised by Johnston.

Acharya suggests a deal with China. Why not trade away democratic Taiwan to China to win Chinese concessions on the South China Sea? A deal could be struck "if China were to offer important concessions to ASEAN on the Spratlys issue (even while maintaining its hard-line stance with respect to Taiwan)" (p. 233). Acharya does not explain why such a deal should appeal to the United States, Japan, or Taiwan or how ASEAN could deliver on such a deal. Why should the deal even appeal to China's rulers, who imagine they can incorporate both Taiwan and the South China Sea? One gap in all these books is an inability to imagine that China is winning and will win.

What factors then block realization of the ASEAN Way in dealings with China? Three seem paramount: the goals embedded in China's new nationalism; an irredentist policy toward Taiwan; and how domestic Chinese politics shape an international future that is in direct conflict with the ASEAN Way.

First is the strategic vision of the patriotic CCP leadership. For Alagappa, "China ... seeks a central place in the management [of the region] and its 'rightful' position in the world" (p. 72). For Kim, "as long as its [China's] territorial integrity [annexing democratic Taiwan, Japan's Sinkaku Islands, and Southeast Asia's Spratly Islands and the South China Sea?] and international status is afforded proper respect" (p. 23), an "Asian regionalism" in which "China ... serves as the hub power (p. 8), a Pax Sinica, can prevail. On June 7, 2005, The Age, (Melbourne) iterated the Alagappa-Kim conclusion more bluntly: "China makes no secret of its pretensions as a coming world power. It has ambitions to become the undisputed geopolitical hub of East Asia, and it expects others to be accommodating and respectful of its interests."

What precisely is meant by China being the rightful center and political hub of the region? Korean scholars Chaesung Chung and Chungin Moon (Moon has coauthored excellent essays in both the Alagappa and Kim volumes), in a brilliant disquisition on sovereignty, captures the CCP's understanding of historical China's role in the region (Alagappa, ch. 3). "China ... constantly engaged in border conflicts with neighboring states ... considered barbaric.... [The Emperors] attempted to expand their territorial boundary into peripheral countries by dispatching numerous military expeditions." Establishing a Sinocentric, hierarchical system with China as the hub, the CCP would "intervene whenever the hierarchic order was jeopardized" (pp. 115, 117).

Gries's translations of recent Chinese portrayals of a civilizing Han history support the Moon and Chung analysis of how Chinese recollect their prior, rightful place of dignity in Asia: "The 21st century will be China's'; "China will soon replace America as the world's number one superpower"; in the premodern "Sinocentric Asian order," "barbarians humbly paid tribute to a superior Chinese civilization" (pp. 64, 65, 66, 105).

Two Chinese academics, Zhang Lidong and Pan Yihe (Wang, pp. 259-287), further illuminate this Sinocentric understanding of how the CCP comprehends China's return to preeminent power: While the PRC presents the restoration of its ancient glory as selfless service to the poor (p. 279), and while "China's internal news reports usually show sympathy toward the weak ... meanwhile ... [Chinese actually experience] contempt toward small nations and ... jealousy of strong nations" (Wang, p. 285). China means to become a great power in the image of ancient greatness. Zhongshan University philosophy professor Yuan Weishi argued in the "Freezing Point" supplement of China Youth Daily that Chinese are taught to see their culture as "superior and unmatched." Therefore, spreading Chinese influence, values, language, and culture all over Asia and the rest of the world is taken to be an act of Chinese beneficence.

Feeling proud of its humane and culturally superior premodern Sinocentric system, Chinese analysts think of modern international organizations as too legalistic and lacking in practical morality. Chinese ruling groups believe that the world would do better under "the traditional Chinese rule of virtue" in which "li" and "tao" and "yin" and "yang" are synthesized to produce a "harmony" desired by China's President Hu (p. 282). Chinese predominance is good for all. It would avoid the conflicts that lead to war in the European Westphalian system.

Harmony, for the Chinese, would be premised on relations "of the 'parents-children' and 'monarch-people'" (p. 279). Inferior peoples benefit from the authority of the virtuous father, China. To avoid violent struggles, "there cannot be two suns in the heavens or two masters on the earth" (p. 273), or two tigers on a mountaintop. A "unitary" and "centralized" world is organized by "rank difference" (p. 284). The "only 'authority crisis' is 'defying one's superiors'" (p. 285). This binary pits the superior, who has learned to act by virtue (hua) and the unvirtuous (yi), "a different and inherently uncivilized species" (p. 271). "The weak ... should pay tribute to the ... powerful countries for material rewards and a security umbrella" (p. 306). While this "Chinese style approach to international relationships" conflicts with "the operational ... approaches used by current international organizations" (p. 285), non-Chinese are asked to respect this Sinocentrism in dealing with China. (4)

A study of Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary China clarifies the Chinese "Middle Kingdom Complex," a "Chinese Cultural Rim" infused by "a regional identity radiating from China and constituting a core sphere of Chinese influence." China will "emerge as the centre." After all, "no other language can compete with Chinese.... Chinese will be accepted by all in the 'Rim' as their lingua franca. What is more Chinese value is ... universal value." (5)

Still, the CCP contends, no one need fear the reach and influence of China's benign culturalism. As iterated by a friend of China's, Henry Kissinger, (6) "military imperialism is not the Chinese style." "The Chinese state in its present dimensions supposedly has existed substantially for 2000 years." (7) Editor Wang, a senior analyst of China's international relations, describes the purpose of his wonderful book, which I have made required reading for students in my Chinese foreign policy course, as dispelling "suspicions outside of China" about the impact of China's "rising economically and politically" (p. 1). The CCP denounces historical references to Chinese expansionism as ill-intended slander. Four neighbors have been urged to rewrite their histories of relations with China so China appears as peaceful and defensive.

It is not strange that Chinese imagine their past to forget the wars and slaughters initiated and perpetrated by Chinese people. All nations tend to see their past in ways that foreshadow a glorious future. Prior Chinese realism, where might is decisive, and present-day Chinese amnesia about that expansive realism are in no way peculiarly Chinese. After all, Chinese are not wrong in calling attention to Japanese expansionism, which today's Japanese prefer to forget. What is different with China is the willingness of others, such as Kissinger, to treat ordinary Chinese myths as actual historical facts.

In 2005, China celebrated the 600th anniversary of the Zheng He naval expeditions as proof of China's benign nature. That is not how those huge armadas of troops are remembered in Asia. The Zheng He voyages were part of a "process by which Southeast Asian polities were gradually absorbed into the Chinese empire through ... colonization." That long process predated Admiral Zheng and is recorded in Indonesian school texts:
 Palembang [in Sumatra] fell under China.... Some thousands of
 Chinese ... were brought in and established a colonial
 administration. In 1377, the head of the colony was Liang Tan Ming
 from Kwangtung.... Admiral Zheng Ho's expedition ... captured many
 Southeast Asian kings, including the King of Palembang.... Indonesia
 was ... the victim of Chinese expansionism. (8)

The voyages reflected "the desire of the Ming to control maritime trade to the south and exploit the economic advantage of such control ... monopolies on gold, silver, salt, iron and fish." China's goal was "to create legitimacy for the usurping emperor, display the might of the Ming, bring the known polities to demonstrated submission to the Ming, and thereby achieve a pax Ming throughout the known world and collect treasure for the court." "These missions were also intended, through ... coercion, to obtain control of ports and shipping lanes." (9) The Portugese navy was doing similar things at the same time. China was not and is not worse than others. But nasty international forces work through all powerful nations. Exceptionalist theories, however, are beloved in powerful nations, in the United States as well as in China. But such romanticization gets the reality all wrong.

The basic fact is that the ASEAN Way is not enmeshing this Sinocentric China in its silky light spiderweb as the Alagappa hypothesis had hoped. Instead, Thomas Moore (Kim, ch. 3) concludes, "China ... still sees regional dynamics ... primarily in terms of bilateral relations" (p. 131). As it was an illusion when observers predicted that a little Hong Kong reintegrated into China would transform a large China in Hong Kong's image of liberties and lawfulness, so it is a mirage to see the ASEAN Way socializing the CCP's China into a nonhierarchical multilateralism. (10) A Sinocentric notion of restored Chinese glory dynamizes Chinese nationalism and PRC policies. It is important to treat seriously this great power China and how Chinese imagine that greatness.

Nowhere are these issues of greater practical significance than with respect to Taiwan. "Taiwan," Ming Wan notes, "is the most explosive security issue in East Asia" (Alagappa, p. 296). Analysts who are relaxed about China's rise, however, argue both that China's irredentism toward Taiwan is an exception to China's exceptional peacefulness and also that it is Taiwan's provocations that should be blamed for tensions in Taiwan-China relations. China's military buildup to "coerce Taiwan" is in "response" to Taiwan's troublemaking (Johnston in Kim, p. 87). China threatens force only "to dissuade Taiwan from declaring independence" (Alagappa, p. 581).

As David Kang notes, Taiwan's democratization "is the real driver behind the heightened tension over the Taiwan Strait" (in Alagappa, p. 350). Because of the patriotic passions unleashed by the country's democratization, Taiwan's president, "an advocate of independence," Kent Calder worries, "may be tempted to take the locally popular course of confrontation with China to solidify his domestic base" (Kim, pp. 232, 233). How could an innocent China not respond, Johnston asks, if the US-Japan Alliance protects "an independent or permanently separated Taiwan" that declares its independence (Kim, p. 81)? It is true that Taiwanese politicians appeal domestically to local patriotic pride. But little Taiwan, whose military spending has been decreasing over the past decade, would never initiate an armed clash with great power China, whose military spending has been rising annually at double-digit rates.

The ASEAN Way has been powerless to stop China's military buildup, because Taiwan is the place where the CCP's new nationalism and post-Tiananmen hard-line politics nastily reinforce each other. China narrowly constricts Taiwan's participation in the ASEAN Way, undermining ASEAN efforts aimed at peace and conciliation, Job shows (Alagappa, pp. 256-257). The CCP uses Track Two talks to advance its interests but keeps a peaceful resolution of China-Taiwan tensions from being "brought to the table" (p. 262), Calder agrees. While "Track II processes could vitally help moderate what could otherwise be volatile, destabilizing tendencies ... especially on Taiwan" (Kim, p. 244), China does not allow the ASEAN Way to grapple "with tension spots ... such as the Taiwan Straits" (Job in Alagappa, p. 271).

Chinese obstructionism precludes a peaceful resolution. Lynn White reports that "Most Beijing intellectuals ... expect a mainland-island war eventually" (Kim, p. 316). A war initiated by China (no one imagines that tiny Taiwan would initiate hostilities) could quickly involve the United States, backed by Japan, with devastating regional consequences. To Moon and Chung, "The 'Chinese threat' thesis is no longer fictional" (Alagappa, p. 106).

The big question is whether China's new nationalism and hard-line politics have significance beyond Taiwan. Avery Goldstein (Alagappa, ch. 5) also worries that attempts at balancing or socializing China will not succeed and that peace is not assured; China is too assertive in word and deed. After all, Jianwei Wang notes (although he is not worried by it), "China probably harbors the largest number of territorial disputes with its neighbors in the world" (Alagappa, p. 384). Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that the US Pacific Fleet is welcomed as a force for order and against aggression (p. 444). While worried about the security dilemma caused by US balancing, Alagappa agrees that most Asian nations welcome America "in balancing the rising power of China" (p. 587).

Recent Chinese tensions with Taiwan seem consequences of post--June 4, Sinocentric, CCP policy initiatives, but China's Taiwan policy is fed by the broader political forces and worldview outlined above. Jean-Marc Blanchard notes (Alagappa, ch. 12), in line with Gries's findings on China's assertive nationalism, that for the CCP, "recovery of the South China Sea appears to offer a means to erase a century of national humiliation." Irredentism is a "domestic issue" in which military leaders "press for a more aggressive policy" (p. 431). The same holds for the CCP's claims to Japan's Sinkaku Islands. The ASEAN Way is powerless to counter China's nationalistic quest to end alleged historic humiliations vis-a-vis Japan (p. 434), Taiwan, or the South China Sea, all of which are treated as domestic issues, matters of defending "the motherland's territory" (p. 439).

China, David Kang finds, has become militarily "provocative" (Alagappa, pp. 352, 361), even while there is a misleading international consensus that blames a weak, small, and defensive Taiwan. (11) Annexing Taiwan is "a holy mission" (White in Kim, p. 306) for healing the fractured national identity of the Chinese people (Kang in Alagappa, p. 361). CCP control of the media keeps Chinese from appreciating how much China benefits from weighty economic dealings with Taiwan. (12) Should the PRC end its threatening posture against Taiwan, mutually beneficial China-Taiwan economic exchanges would intensify. Securing the peace requires policy change in Beijing.

In a fact-based study of "Taiwan's External Relations" (Kim, ch. 11), Lynn White III concludes that Taiwan's policy toward China is to preserve the international status quo "until the PRC modernizes politically" (p. 310). "Taipei wants to moderate Beijing's behavior," notes Ming Wan (Alagappa, p. 296). Taiwan merely seeks ways, Goldstein finds, to balance "against the dangers it sees in the PRC's growing power" (Alagappa, p. 191).

This, however, cannot be done by Taiwan alone, Lowell Dittmer points out, because, when the Soviet Union imploded, the PRC redeployed troops from its northern borders toward the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. With the might of newly purchased arms, Chinese weapons "have the potential to alter the Asian balance of power, specifically vis-a-vis Taiwan" (Kim, pp. 338, 339). According to a reading of PRC military sources by Alan Wachman, China's military seeks to undermine Taiwan's de facto independence to gain for China control of the waters, energy resources, and contested islands of the entire region. (13)

Taiwan actually is, and long has been, Dittmer reminds us, "a de facto separate state" (Kim, p. 355). That is, it autonomously rules itself. It only lacks de jure independence, legal international standing, something achieved only when the international community offers Taiwan official recognition. This lack of de jure independence is caused by PRC pressures on governments not to extend official recognition to what is in fact a completely independent Taiwan. The CCP propaganda about a danger of Taiwan establishing its de jure independence is baseless, since it is China's power that decides the issue. Taiwan is powerless to change the status quo when other governments will not risk CCP ire by going beyond unofficial relations with Taiwan. After all, even China has deep unofficial relations with Taiwan. China's rise in information technology has been premised on those strong unofficial relations with a de facto independent Taiwan.

Leaders of Taiwan's two mainstream parties regularly declare that Taiwan is and long has been independent. Still, the only way Taiwan can become de jure independent in the international community is if China changes its policy. The power lies with the CCR When the CCP rages at democratic Taiwan for holding referenda or amending its constitution or rewriting its school texts, it is not because any of these actions of a de facto independent Taiwan can actually advance Taiwan toward de jure independence. They cannot. Taiwan is powerless to persuade others to recognize it as a nation. What the CCP actually seeks is international backing for its policy of subverting Taiwan's de facto independence so that Taiwan can be pressed to subordinate itself to CCP rule, as have Tibet and Hong Kong. In sum, Chinese policy is the result of Chinese power and a Sinocentric vision of the future. US engagement cannot socialize China away from its Sinocentric nationalist policy of establishing China's regional centrality. (14) Nor can military balancing achieve that goal. Nor Japanese multilateralism. (15) Despite the best wishes and efforts of the excellent authors in the Alagappa book, neither can the ASEAN Way.

Only the Chinese people can contest and negate the CCP's post--June 4 tough, Sinocentric nationalism. Blanchard finds that "Chinese foreign policy decision makers are deciding whether to be a responsible power or a disruptive nation at odds with the international community, whether to be a victimized developing power or a major power" (Alagappa, p. 429). Early in the twenty-first century, indeed ever since the post--June 4 removal of leaders committed to political reform, "the already impressive influence of the" Chinese military was bolstered. It presses "for a more aggressive policy in the South China Sea," Blanchard finds (p. 431). Wishful thinking cannot keep down this muscular reality. Only Chinese can do that. Much therefore depends on the dynamics of domestic Chinese politics, which, as mentioned earlier, are not transparent.

The ASEAN Way will include China only when a new Chinese leadership or rulers in a new Chinese political system decide that the ASEAN Way is in China's own best interest. Indeed, that is precisely how Acharya understands the origins of ASEAN. It was the fruit of a political switch in a key state. As long as Indonesia's dictator Sukarno would not give up on irredentist "animosity toward his neighbor Malaysia," ASEAN was impossible (Alagappa, pp. 222-223). Suharto ousted Sukarno, abandoned Indonesia's war to liberate territory from Malaysia, and ASEAN was born.

China today is not the China of the premodern gunpowder empire. Today's China, especially since China survived the Asian financial crisis relatively unscathed, is confident that its rise and power are furthered by win-win multilateral arrangements with neighbors. That is one major reason why China's status and soft power have recently risen. It is not impossible that the more economically internationalist Chinese forces will someday prevail over those who seek politico-military predominance. Surely other nations' policies toward China should be premised on advancing that possibility and not on accelerating the vicious military cycle inherent in the security dilemma.

Just as China is changing and can change further, so ASEAN today is not the ASEAN of the 1960s. Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia have democratized. Malaysia and Singapore are more open. ASEAN has made clear its displeasure over human rights abuses in the cruel nation of Burma. But Dewi Fortuna Anwar (Alagappa, ch. 15), in a study of "Human Security," finds that Sinocentric hegemony threatens to reduce human rights and democracy in the region. As Johnston notes, the CCP has already defeated regional human rights activism (Kim, p. 68). The ASEAN Way of absolute noninterference, Acharya points out, has left ASEAN incapable of dealing with crises in its region--East Timor, Cambodia, and Burma (Alagappa, p. 224). Therefore, Acharya notes, ASEAN is moving in the direction of "enhanced interaction" (Alagappa, p. 225) so as to be able to deal with crimes against humanity that could otherwise spawn drugs, weapons, and refugees crossing borders and could threaten regional stability. As now constituted, Calder concludes, "Northeast Asia's institutions are startlingly inadequate for coping with regional problems" (Kim, p. 238). The ASEAN Way has not yet changed enough to resolve regional problems. Meanwhile, China's rise makes that ASEAN transformation more difficult. The CCP courts authoritarian regimes in the region.

Rather than China being changed by ASEAN, Han China is changing the political world in and out of China. Inside China, Manchus have been Sinified. Mongols mostly no longer speak, read, or write Mongolian. Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists are facing a similar overwhelming by the Han. Cultural communities are being decultured, Sinicized. Externally, Burma has been drawn into the Chinese sphere of influence. Vietnam, according to Blanchard, is moving that way (Alagappa, p. 429). Laos and North Korea may follow. Hong Kong's democratic opening has been closed. Analysts ask, White reports, "Is Taiwan going the way of Hong Kong?" (Kim, p. 317). Mongolia is being absorbed into the Chinese orbit. (16) None of these four books grapples with the possibility that China's rise in Asia could achieve the CCP's present purposes. So far, Chinese leaders can feel satisfied and confident that they are doing well in advancing their goals.

Of course, as with Suharto replacing Sukarno and with ASEAN's democratization and enhanced interactions, Chinese politics too could change. Just because the CCP invokes the Chinese past does not mean that the PRC is an avatar of the past. Arun Swamy and John Gershman (Alagappa, ch. 12) think China will change. Like Gries, they see a 1989 CCP turning point in a nasty nationalist direction. But Swamy and Gershman conclude that the political forces undergirding the CCP's Sinocentrism cannot permanently consolidate CCP power. The 1989 suppression of China's nationwide democracy movement sidelined political reformers. It marginalized "soft-liners and left the hard-liners clearly in charge." More accurately, the hard-liners were part of an unstable coalition. It has therefore not been easy for the CCP to continue policies of international openness and economic reform, an agenda necessary for China's continuing rise, while, at the same time, having to prove at home nationalist toughness against Taiwan and other regional economic partners. Over time, "the leadership's juggling act will only become more difficult" (Alagappa, pp. 519, 529). Political reform is possible and preferable and not impossible. Still, the nontransparency of the regime precludes any certainty on China's future direction.

The Chinese contributors to Wang's book agree. As long as China is perceived in terms of wounding Tibet, threatening Taiwan, and inflicting human rights abuses, there is a limit to China's appeal. As much as democratic Mongolia and Taiwan and others in the region want to benefit from China's economic dynamism, they are leery of Sinocentric subordination to an authoritarian CCR Chinese rulers, as much as those in ASEAN, must face up to the new challenges of the present moment in globalization. Given these challenges and the CCP's Sinocentrism, Chinese editor Wang Yizhou avers, "China has not fulfilled its responsibilities in maintaining world peace and promoting development." Therefore, the "best way for China to influence the world [for the better] is to reform and develop itself," Wang concludes (p. 37). Or as Ming Wan puts it, if China were to democratize, then "in the long run we will see a zone of peace in Asia" (Alagappa, p. 301).

One should not underestimate a deep and genuine Chinese desire to contribute, and be known for contributing, to the betterment of the species and the world. Internal political changes would constitute real proof that China deserved to be appreciated as a great power. This conclusion suggests that all the diverse ways invented by others to change China miss the key point. China is a great nation. Only the Chinese people, especially the reform forces in the CCP, can change China for the better. While there really is not much others can do to promote a democracy in China oriented to peace and multilateralism, the ASEAN Way, despite its inadequacies, might have a role. If its "expanded interactions" strengthen China's political reform forces, even at the margin, then, as Alagappa's wonderful book suggests, it is in all our interests to be supporters of the ASEAN Way. The limit on comprehending the future impact of China's rise on the region and the world lies in the contingent nature and nontransparent quality of the Chinese political system. Only Chinese, however, can change that.


(1.) Cf. Alistair Iain Johnston, "Beijing's Security Behavior in the Asia-Pacific." In J. J. Suh et al., eds., Rethinking Security in East Asia (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), ch. 2.

(2.) For details on China's post-June 4 reconstruction of its nationalism, see Yingjie Guo, Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary China (New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), pp. 52, 62, 73, 97, 125.

(3.) For realist critiques of the Alagappa approach, see "Book Review Roundtable," Issues and Studies 41, no. 1 (March 2005): 219-250. In contrast to Giles, Alagappa does not see a deterioration of China-Japan relations. "China is improving its relations with Japan" (Alagappa, p. 97).

(4.) This Sinocentrism is not new. Diplomatic historian Chen Jian details how in China's entering the Korean War in 1950, "Beijing's mentality [was] ... penetrated by the "Central Kingdom's sense of moral superiority." Mao dispatched Chinese troops into Korea for "achieving the Korean Communists' inner acceptance of China's morally superior position'" (Chen Jian, "Limits of the 'Lips and Teeth' Alliance," Asia Program Special Report, University of Virginia, n.d., p. 5).

(5.) Guo, Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary. China, p. 128.

(6.) Henry Kissinger, "China Shifts Centre of Gravity," The Australian, June 13, 2005.

(7.) For histories of China's actual expansion by force, see Nicola Di Cosmo, Ancient China and Its Enemies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Alistair Iain Johnston, Cultural Realism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); and Peter Perdue, China Marches West (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 2005). On the war-prone basis of Chinese strategic conceptualization, see Krzysztof Gawlkowski, "Three Approaches to War and Struggle in Chinese Classical Thought." In Silke Krieger and Roll Trauzettel, eds., Confucianism and the Modernization of China (Mainz: Hase & Koehler, 1991), pp. 367-373.

(8.) Rizal Sukma, "Indonesia's Perceptions of China." In Herbert Yee and Ian Story, eds., The China Threat: Perceptions, Myths and Realities (New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2002), p. 189.

(9.) Geoff Wade, The Zheng He Voyages, National University of Singapore, Asia Research Institute Working Paper Series No. 31, October 2004, pp. 6, 9, 11, 18.

(10.) See Jean-Pierre Cabestan, "The Chinese Factor." In Gilles Boquerat and Frederic Grave, eds., India, China, Russia (Singapore: India Research Press, 2004), ch. 4.

(11.) "China is determined to deter Taiwan from declaring independence" (Roger Cohen, "Shaping China's Future Power," New York Times, June 12, 2005): "Taiwan must be pressed not to take unilateral steps that would be tantamount to independence, and risk a military response from the mainland" (Richard Haas, "What to Do About China," U.S. News and World Report, June 20, 2005); "Taiwan is part of China" (Henry Kissinger, "Conflict Is Not an Option," International Herald Tribune, June 9, 2005).

(12.) The huge positive contribution of Taiwan to China's growth is almost invisible even to open-minded Chinese (Wang, pp. 143, 149), because CCP counting practices excluded the Taiwan trade and Taiwan's capital entering China from Hong Kong.

(13.) Alan Wachman, Why Taiwan? (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006).

(14.) Michael Mastanduno describes US policy as "comprehensive engagement with China" "to integrate China in the present order" (Alagappa, pp. 162, 143).

(15.) "Japan has adroitly promoted regional multilateralism," Job notes (Alagappa, p. 252). Japan, Calder tells us, "is the real colossus of Northeast Asia" (Kim, p. 241). Ming Wan adds, "Japan has the most developed strategy of economic cooperation in the region"; Japan is the "largest aid donor to East Asia," including to China (Alagappa, pp. 286, 287). Shen Jim agrees on Japan's contribution to multilateral regional cooperation (Wang, p. 137).

(16.) "Others, like France, consider Mongolia to be in China's sphere" (John Tkacik Jr., "Asia's Outpost of Democracy," Far Eastern Economic Review, June 2005: 21).

Edward Friedman is professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His most recent books are Revolution, Resistance and Reform in Village China (2005), China's Rise, Taiwan's Dilemmas, and International Peace (2005), and Asia's Giants: Comparing China and India (2005).
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Title Annotation:Asian Security Order: Instrumental and Normative Features; China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics and Diplomacy; The International Relations of Northeast Asia; Construction Within Contradiction: Multiple Perspectives on the Relationship Between China and International Organizations
Author:Friedman, Edward
Publication:Journal of East Asian Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:May 1, 2006
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