In this thoughtful, thoroughly researched study of traditional Chinese views about the military and Beijing's present-day use of force, Scobell concludes that the traditional "cult of defense" blended realpolitik and Confucian pacifism -- allowing the Chinese to convince themselves that they used force only as a last resort and thus to commit to warfare with abandon when they deemed it necessary. The bulk of the book consists of case studies, which include border clashes with India, the Soviet Union, and Vietnam and the Korean War (for which he draws on the latest scholarship and newly opened Chinese and Russian archives). He finds that the Chinese military is far from a monolithic institution, and that its relationship with the state has changed considerably over time: under Mao, the "gun always served the Party," but after the Cultural Revolution the People's Liberation Army increasingly asserted its own views on national security. In the end, the Chinese come out looking neither as pacific as many believe nor as bellicose as others fear.
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