China's "Peaceful Rise" in the 21st Century: Domestic and International Conditions

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China's "Peaceful Rise" in the 21st Century: Domestic and International Conditions, edited by Sujian Guo. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. xii + 272 pp. £55.00/US$99.95 (hardcover).

The re-emergence of the People's Republic of China as a great economic, political and military power is no longer a prediction but a reality at the beginning of the new millennium. China's rapid growth at the end of the 20th and early 21st century, and its consequences, will probably become an important focus in any future book on international politics and world history. Will China challenge the international system disruptively as other rising powers have done? In this book, Chinese and American scholars engage in a thorough theoretical and empirical discussion of how China is developing. Edited by Sujian Guo, the book joins the debate over whether China's rise will be peaceful and conducive to global development, but instead of giving the reader a clear answer it provokes and invites more discussion and debate on the topic.

"Peaceful rise" or "peaceful development" has become the official policy of China since the beginning of the 21st century under the leadership of Hu Jintao. Domestically, the Chinese Communist Party emphasizes the importance of building a harmonious society; externally, the Chinese government actively promotes a peaceful international environment through active diplomacy. The concept of "peaceful rise" was initially proposed to counter the "China threat" argument that is still prevalent in some parts of the world. As Guo explained, the new policy "seeks to reassure the U.S. and other countries that China's rise will not be a threat to peace and stability in the region and the world and that the U.S. and other countries can benefit from China's peaceful development" (p. 2). The study of China's development trajectory not only helps answer theoretical questions regarding models of modernization and power shift in the international system but also has policy implications for China, as well as for the international community.

The central theme is whether it is possible for China to achieve "peaceful development", given domestic and international challenges, including US efforts to "constrain" or "contain" China (p. 3). In the first part of the book, the contributors discuss domestic conditions of China's rise, paying particular attention to China's political and economic reforms, the nature of the Chinese regime, regime stability and legitimacy, corruption, repression, and other social issues and problems in today's China. In the second part, scholars examine international conditions, focusing on geopolitics in China's neighborhood, the US-dominant world system, China's military modernization, relations between China and the United States, and the Sino-Japanese rivalry. This two-level analysis provides a comprehensive survey of the domestic and international background against which China is propelling itself to great-power status, and captures nicely the opportunities and challenges that China faces today as it continues to develop and adjust to its new role in the world. …