The avoidable war



March 12, 2022

avoidable war

Book Review

The book “The avoidable war” is an exploration of one of the world’s most significant and fraught international relationships. The author, former prime minister of Australia, employs his considerable diplomatic experience to analyze Xi Jinping’s aggressive approach toward the world stage. The author sets out a readable cautionary tale, warning of the dangers of mutual distrust between China and the U.S. as well as the follies of the “Thucydides Trap,” described by historian Graham Allison as “the natural, inevitable discombobulation that occurs when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power.” As the author amply demonstrates, Xi, as a kind of neo-Mao, is actively stoking the “depressingly familiar, ancient alchemies of xenophobia, nationalism and political opportunism.”

The author calls for new “rules of the road” for the two powers to navigate and he shows the roots of the conflict in China’s suspicion of foreigners, regarded as culturally inferior and irrelevant and the stance of the American government, which, despite its avowed anti-colonialism, has often disregarded China as an equal trading partner and pursued aggressive, patronizing policies toward China. After World War I, for example, “America’s status, in the eyes of China’s emerging political class, collapsed overnight from national savior to spineless hypocrite.”

The author surmises that Beijing sees the relationship as a transactional one while the U.S. has viewed it as “transformational, carrying with it the deeper objective of changing the fundamental nature of Communist China itself.” This has not happened, of course, and the author walks us through Xi’s “ten concentric circles of interest,” which include the widespread consolidation of power, national unity, unfettered economic growth, “securing China’s maritime periphery in East Asia and the west Pacific,” and even “rewriting the global rules-based order.” Where Xi is perhaps most vulnerable is in environmental policy or a situation in which cracks develop in the seemingly endless economic expansion plan. TW

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