War by Other Means: Geoeconomics and Statecraft

Geoeconomics, the use of economic instruments to advance foreign policy goals, has long been a staple of great-power politics. In this impressive policy manifesto, Blackwill and Harris argue that in recent decades, the United States has tended to neglect this form of statecraft, while China, Russia, and other illiberal states have increasingly employed it to Washington’s disadvantage. China looms especially large in the book, which details Beijing’s reliance on economic carrots and sticks to bring smaller and weaker countries into its political orbit—for example, launching a new development organization to rival the World Bank and laying the groundwork for a new Silk Road across Eurasia. Blackwill and Harris worry that economic statecraft has become a “lost art” in post–Cold War U.S. foreign policy and that the American penchant for separating economics from politics and Washington’s commitment to a rules-based international order have constrained U.S. policymakers. But as the authors acknowledge, Chinese and Russian attempts to use trade and investment for geopolitical purposes often backfire. And crucially, U.S. support for a rules-based system is itself a profoundly geoeconomic strategy that has paid dividends for decades. 

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