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Thomas J Christensen, a career diplomat and China hand, lays out a broad ranging analysis of Chinese foreign policy that transcends ideological prejudices and presents one of the most informed analyses of China available.
Christensen distinguishes from the pessimists, who believe in the Thucydides Trap, and explains how China and United States interests are broadly aligned, and the main obstacles to a closer alignment are that essential currency, trust.
Christensen offers a broad sweep of Chinese foreign relations, mainly through the prism of United States interests, but also with sufficient attention provided to domestic and ideological factors shaping the decision making capabilities of both countries.
In contrast to pessimistic news coverage, Christensen outlines how China has adopted more pragmatic and conciliatory postures on matters ranging from North Korea, to Iran, to Sudan and the Gulf of Aden, to other multilateral matters such as Syria and Libya.
Christensen identifies China's foreign policy doctrine of non-interference, and has illustrated how this is not a rigid straight jacket, as many believe, and that China has taken unexpected steps, such as voting in favour of the UN Security Council resolution that referred Libya to the International Criminal Court.
Additionally, the book also covers key issues such as China's evolving posture on climate change, but sadly lacks much analysis of One Belt One Road, mentioned only in the afterword.
A particular strength of the book is the analysis of China's North Korea posture, illustrating why North Korea is an important ally to China, and the role of China in the Korean War is a continuing symbol of national pride, but also the evolving nature of China's North Korean policy, such as stating that the security alliance is conditional on North Korea's good behaviour, and Christensen's insight that Xi Jinping is far less tolerant or indulging of North Korea's Kim Dynasty than his predecessors.
In all, this is a very well informed and comprehensive overview of China's foreign policy, and a much more positive view than other titles, such as The Hundred Year Marathon.
Christensen has provided a well informed and scholarly analysis, that is recommended to all China watchers.