|Yu Changsen, Cognitions and Responses of Some Countries in the Asia-Pacific Region to China's Rise, Current Affairs Press, July 2013|
China's rise sometimes seems irreversible, but the path is far less smooth than it appears. Concerns and suspicions from the rest of the world, especially its neighbors, never recede.
As the concept of "China's peaceful rise" was first introduced into national rhetoric in 2003, argument about how exactly the country will treat the world has been more stirred up by China watchers around the world.
Geopolitically, the Asia-Pacific region has seen the most impact from China's rise, and is where the key tone of how the world sees China is set.
Over the last decade, China's rise has always been a hot topic. Numerous books, documents and reports have been produced based on it. However, most of these works have concentrated too much on things like theoretical analysis, historical background or future predictions.
Only a few of them have grasped the core of the research; the study of China's present status, and especially perspectives on how neighboring countries respond to China's rise.
That is where this book starts. Cognitions and Responses of Some Countries in the Asia-Pacific Region to China's Rise, written by Yu Changsen, director of the Department of International Relations at Sun Yat-sen University, believes that interaction of different policies between China and its neighborhood is one of the keys that determine if China's rise can be constructed in a peaceful manner.
This book is structured like a case study, choosing the most influential powers around China - the US, Japan, Russia, Australia, India and ASEAN - as case studies.
Yu does not fall into a stereotypical pattern that limits every case to a similar framework. He tries his best to focus on different causes of different attitudes toward China's rise in different countries.
For example, when analyzing ASEAN countries, Yu starts his research based on social constructivism. Such an approach, guided by sociological theory, manages to avoid piling up facts.
The book lacks the glamor that could take it to the bestseller list. It does not simply use deconstructive or inventive language to attract more readers. It does a mediocre job at combining the theoretical exploration with the study of the present status.
It starts with a broad and general description of how great powers rise in history, and then analyzes the power structure of Asia-Pacific countries. This kind of theoretical construction is worth a try, but this book regrettably does not go any deeper.
The most readership-intriguing part, though, is the author's analysis of how China is portrayed in government reports, media pieces and academic articles of the aforementioned countries and regions.
Such facts-based analysis gives readers the insight that China's rise can follow a predictable path, and more interactions with regional powers in terms of policies give China greater strategic space to spiral up.
Generally speaking, the book holds China's peaceful rise is doable, and the country is approaching much nearer to the goal.
But regrettably, the author does not talk much about the challenges that lie in front of China.
If he did, readers would have more space to draw their own conclusions.