China-U.S. Relations Transformed: Perspectives and Strategic Interactions

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China-U.S. Relations Transformed: Perspectives and Strategic Interactions, edited by Suisheng Zhao. London: Routledge, 2008. xvi + 234 pp. £75.00 (hardcover).

This book is a useful collection of essays on various aspects of China-US relations, drawn mostly from two conferences held at the University of Denver in 2005 and 2006. While the title speaks of "relations transformed", that theme does not come out particularly strongly in the essays. China is certainly more powerful than it was in the 1990s, and while new issues, such as energy, are receiving more attention than in previous edited collections, the case for transformation in the relationship remains to be made. The book, then, is the sum of its parts, as opposed to something greater than the sum of its parts. This is not unusual for an edited collection, and the separate parts are mostly strong essays.

The book is divided into three parts: two context-setting essays by Suisheng Zhao; five essays by Chinese scholars; and six essays by US-based scholars. All are solid. The five essays by the Chinese authors are a convenient package that might (were the book less expensive) be given to students to read to present Chinese voices on Sino-American relations and Chinese foreign policy.

The essays by the Chinese scholars are Qingguo lia' s "Learning to Live with the Hegemon" on China's adaptation to US unipolarity, Dongxiao Chen's "Complexity and Transformational Structure of China-US Relations", "Comparing Security Concepts of China and the U. S.A." by lian Xu, Baohui Zhang's "Nuclear Deterrence and the Sino-US Strategic Relationship" and "China-US Economic Relations and the Trade Imbalance Issue" by Wei Li. lia's essay is a slightly revised version of an article that appeared in the Journal of Contemporary China in August 2005, and is a strong piece by one of China's best international relations specialists. Of the others, Zhang's essay on nuclear deterrence is the most interesting. He surveys China's nuclear force modernization carefully, and sees the US and China as being mutually deterred by each other's nuclear forces by around 2020, if not before. He consequently urges a substantive strategic dialogue on nuclear issues between the two nations. One fundamental question which he does not address is whether the US is prepared to accept mutually agreed limits to nuclear forces, or even mutually assured destruction between the two states.

The US-based scholars include Philip Saunders ("Managing a Multifaceted Relationship between the USA and China"), lean Garrison ("The Domestic Political Game behind the Engagement Strategy"), Bernard Cole ("Chinese Military Modernization and Energy Security"), lune Teufel Dreyer ("The Rise of China and Sino-American Energy Cooperation"), Pieter Botte lier ("China's Economic Rise: Implications for the USA") and Elizabeth Economy ("China, the USA, and Iapan: Reconfiguring Relations in Southeast Asia"). …