Shirk draws on her rare combination of scholarly expertise and deep experience in U.S. foreign policy to offer a magisterial account of the excess of ambition in Beijing. She argues that China has gone too far in both its aggressive posture in foreign affairs and its repressive turn at home. Surprisingly, this process of overreach, she argues, began under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s predecessor, the more moderate Hu Jintao. Domestic corruption and dysfunctionality paved the way for Xi’s personalist dictatorship, which sees the projection of power overseas as a way of boosting the popularity of the regime at home. When the two “personalistic autocratic” leaders U.S. President Donald Trump and Xi held office concurrently from 2016 to 2020, U.S.-Chinese relations rapidly became confrontational. The bilateral relationship has fallen apart, resulting in what China fears most: containment by the United States and its allies. But Shirk soberly urges Washington not to overreact to Beijing in a way that would “weaken the country’s ability to compete successfully with China.” The best response to China’s overreach, she concludes, would be for the United States to “become a better version of its open-market democracy” and not to undermine its own democratic principles.