The Eagle and the Dragon: A Review of Cool War: The Future of Global Competition

By Kuersten, Andreas | Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

The Eagle and the Dragon: A Review of Cool War: The Future of Global Competition


Kuersten, Andreas, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

The image on the cover of Noah Feldman's latest book (1)--a dragon rising below a soaring eagle--is an apt representation of the rise of China in a world that has been dominated by the United States since the end of the Cold War. (2) The rapport between these two countries will likely determine their courses and that of international law and relations in general for decades to come. Will they interact more or less cooperatively? Or will they slip into the chilled, zero sum, and vicious competition that characterized the U.S.-U.S.S.R. relationship? In Cool War: The Future of Global Competition {"Cool War '), Feldman presents a situation closer to the latter scenario, along with predictions for how and where this contest will play out and strategies for how relations can and should be managed under modern and evolving international law and institutions.

In reviewing Feldman's book, it is important to place it within the scholarship and debates taking place over the impact of the U.S.-China relationship on international law, politics, and the international system generally. Feldman occupies a position warning of coming conflict--though not necessarily military--in a bipolar world. This view stands farther along the line of change from present circumstances than those predicting continued U.S. dominance and a Chinese collapse (3) or a more peaceful bipolar structure managed effectively by international institutions. (4) Feldman does not, however, go so far as those foreseeing a coming Chinese unipolar world (5) or a world without superpowers at all. (6)

In presenting his vision and prescriptions for the future, Feldman organizes the book into three sections: "Cool War," (7) "The Sources of Chinese Conduct," (8) and "Global Competition." (9) The first two seek to outline the situation between the United States and China and provide a glimpse of the machinery of Chinese leadership and motivations. The third section then uses the information presented in earlier sections to construct various predictions for how the Cool War will play out and recommendations for both sides on how to manage the coming confrontation.

Feldman professes his purpose as being to provide a clear and realistic view of present and future U.S.-China relations as well as ideas for the mitigation of confrontation. (10) While Cool War makes some interesting and provocative points, its analysis and recommendations appear aimed more at fighting the predicted Cool War than mitigating it. The work is therefore contradictory as to one of its stated purposes. Feldman also remains tightly focused on comparing the present day to the Cold War and his evaluations present these eras as becoming fundamentally identical but for some nuances as to the influences keeping the sides from open and more destructive conflict. Just as the United States and U.S.S.R. had to skirt around military encounters and nuclear weapons in their confrontation, the United States and China must do the same while also heeding their dense economic entanglement and interdependence. Thus, rather than offering recommendations for conflict management, Feldman presents the key factors that will influence present and future U.S.-China relations and methods for each side to proceed to their advantage.

Furthermore, the work as a whole lacks necessary degrees of nuance and extrapolation. It would have benefited greatly from additional length and cohesiveness given its complicated and important target material. As a result, while clearly crafted by a professor with enviable knowledge of government and international affairs, readers are ultimately left with a book that takes a narrow and somewhat disjointed look at the future of U.S.-China relations and pushes for aggravating policy from both sides while claiming to advance the opposite. While Cool War is still an interesting and unique read due to its pragmatic combination of political theory and cross-Pacific analysis, it is unlikely to be a defining work on the coming era of international politics or U. …

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