The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy

Edward Luttwak, Author
Edward N. Luttwak. Harvard Univ./Belknap, $26.95 (318p) ISBN 978-0-674-06642-7
Reviewed on: 07/16/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
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In this frequently bewildering jeremiad, controversial military strategist Luttwak argues that China’s rise as a world power is ultimately unsustainable. Luttwak laments the “sad, even sinister consequences that must ensue if China’s rapid advance were to collide with the paradoxical logic of strategy,” namely, that uncontrolled Chinese military growth will induce other states to align against China, consequently provoking conflict. Using frequent bullet points and repetitive language, he builds an intriguing if tendentious case that “the logic of strategy cannot be linear: a rising military threat normally stiffens resistance against it.” Eschewing 99% of the classical literature in international relations—even game theory is conspicuously absent—Luttwak promptly blends his deterministic thesis with a sparsely argued belief that China’s policy makers are congenitally influenced by their Han heritage (in particular Sun Tzu’s The Art of War), putting them at a disadvantage. What Luttwak calls “great-state autism” may cause the Chinese to alienate their allies and enrage their enemies with endless blunders and faux pas. The book’s second half is a dreary litany of the ways that China’s diplomatic strategy has backfired, from the dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands to China’s adolescent temper tantrum following the news that Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Luttwak does little to connect all these incidents to the broader thrust of his book. (Nov.)
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