Sunday, March 30, 2008

Book review: Bates Gill’s Rising Star

Despite all the alarmist rhetoric coming from the Pentagon and a handful of conservative think tanks, war with China is not inevitable, argues Bates Gill in his book Rising Star: China’s new security diplomacy. The key to avoiding conflict ( or making it less likely), he contends, lies in paying closer attention to and understanding Beijing’s interests as a regional power and encouraging it to continue down the road of multilateralism.

Despite all its virtues — and as a counterbalance to the US’ paranoid perspective on the rising giant it has many — Gill’s book barely touches on the Taiwan Strait, which among all the potential sources of war involving China and the US is by far the likeliest. That said, should Washington, Tokyo and others make some of the adjustments Gill hints at in his book, it could be possible to decouple the Taiwan problem from the encirclement issue, which as I have argued before has made conflict resolution in an increasingly militarized Strait a more onerous task than is necessary.*

There are certain areas, such as Beijing's alliances with murderous regimes like Khartoum, where Gill could rightly be accused of being soft, or at minimum too optimistic, but overall his book shows us that being too hard on it may not be any more constructive.

Readers can access my review of Gill’s book, “The twin rises of the Chinese superpower,” by clicking here.

* See “The missile blunder,” “Washington conservatives strike again,” “Washington celebrates, but other are fretful,” and “But are they really friends of Taiwan?” below.

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