Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics

In This Review

Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics (Contemporary Asia in the World)
By Yuan-kang Wang
Columbia University Press, 2010
328 pp. $50.00

Does Chinese strategic culture emphasize harmony and defense, thereby assuring that China's rise will be peaceful? Or is the culture realist, encouraging China to push its interests harder as its capabilities increase? Wang's thesis is that China has a strategic culture that is predominantly peaceful and defensive but that this culture has little influence over the country's grand strategy. He tests the thesis with a rich historical account of China's international actions from 960 to 1644, showing that the Song and Ming dynasties alternated between defensive and offensive behavior depending on the balance of power with neighboring political units. The theoretical implication is that China, like other states, shapes its strategy in response to the balance of material power. The practical implication is that China's behavior will continue to emphasize defense so long as it is weaker than the United States but will become more assertive if the opportunity arises.

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