This is the most thorough study of the post-Mao reforms in China yet published and it is likely to be a standard source for many years. Harding hedges his bets on the future. Among the more plausible scenarios, he sees China moving "slowly, even haltingly, toward a more open, market-oriented economy and a more relaxed and consultative political system," but he also sees a possibility of some reforms being rescinded, modified or indefinitely postponed. With regard to the impact on international relations of a successfully modernizing China, Harding discounts what he calls the apocalyptic scenarios. "China will retain a stake in the stability and prosperity of the international system. . . . The vitality of the rest of Asia, and the adaptability of the regional balance of power, will also restrain China's ambitions." The rise of Chinese power, therefore, is not likely to culminate in either a systemic political crisis (like the rise of the Axis powers in the 1930s), a sustained cold war or acute economic competition.