China and Coexistence: Beijing's National Security Strategy for the Twenty-First Century

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CHINA AND COEXISTENCE: Beijing's National Security Strategy for the Twenty-First Century, Liselotte Odgaard, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2012, 264 pages, $45.00

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT the Royal Danish Defence College, Institute for Strategy, Liselotte Odgaard has written a compelling book arguing that China will remain merely a would-be great power for the foreseeable future. She believes legitimate great power status comes about primarily through the combination of military and economic means, and that China will not soon achieve this stature. However, China will pose a challenge to U.S. geopolitical interests and the U.S.-led international order by way of its peaceful coexistence policy.

In support of her thesis, Odgaard systematically details the evolution of China's national security strategy over the last 20 years, highlighting its balance of peaceful coexistence and nationalism. She describes peaceful coexistence as a strategy that nations with less than great power status use to wield political influence (relying on diplomacy and statesmanship) as a means to influence global order to suit nationalist aspirations. In other words, peaceful coexistence is a tool used to persuade, not provoke. China seeks to use this strategy to influence global order by way of multilateral and international security institutions, such as the United Nations and smaller regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to buy time to build its economy and military to achieve great power status.

Odgaard places this peaceful coexistence security strategy into effective historical context, drawing on early Soviet doctrine, China and India's mid-century experience, and country case studies from the 19th and 20th centuries (e.g., Austria, Prussia, and Britain). …


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