China Goes Global | David Shambaugh

Summary of: China Goes Global: The Partial Power
By: David Shambaugh


In ‘China Goes Global: The Partial Power’, author David Shambaugh seeks to uncover the truth behind China’s international influence. This comprehensive overview of China’s global impact examines its history and current status to offer an insightful understanding of whether China is indeed a superpower. Delve into the unique aspects of Chinese culture, international relations, foreign policy, economic growth, military development, and the complexity of its relationships with other world powers. This book summary will guide you through a captivating discussion that debunks popular myths about China’s global position and sheds light on its potentials and limitations.

China’s Myths and Realities

China is widely seen as a leading global superpower with the potential to become an even bigger force to reckon with in world affairs. However, this idea may be a myth fueled by a distorted perception of China’s influence. In debunking this myth, policy-makers and scholars are encouraged to take a new and more realistic look at China’s global impact.

China’s Path to Power

China’s past isolationist policy and refusal to adapt to foreign cultures led to 150 years of humiliation and exploitation by foreign powers. However, in 1978, the Communist Party announced policies to promote global expansion. This international orientation began with education, science, and technology, followed by commerce and culture. China realized that to be a true global power, it must dominate various sectors, not just one. Today, China needs to address its internal and global constituencies and convince its people that it will not be oppressed again. It also needs to assuage concerns about military expansionism and create an image that reflects the economic and social realities hindering its development into a superpower. Despite its image, China still struggles to shape international diplomacy, drive other nations’ policies, forge global consensus, or solve problems.

China’s Complex Foreign Policy

China’s emergence as a global actor is driven by its power to influence certain spheres while remaining passive in others. The country’s foreign policy is heavily shaped by different schools of thought, with the realists and nativists dominating. However, China’s identity is not fixed and may change, and its relationships with neighbors and major powers undergo repeating cycles of estrangement and normalcy. Despite being a partial power, China’s huge trade surpluses have contributed to job losses worldwide.

Competitive Coexistence

The relationship between China and the US is complex, characterized by competitive coexistence. While the two nations maintain economic ties, their approach to world order differs significantly. The US favors liberal regimes, while China tends towards authoritarian governments. China is also sensitive to its border security and maintains the imperative of maintaining territorial integrity. China-Russia relations have been long-standing, and both nations work together to resolve their border disputes, growing in trade and energy exports. However, China has no allies, and the world appears to distrust them.

China’s Perception of Global Governance

China’s leadership faces the challenge of conforming to impartial global governance norms as it gains more sway in global affairs. Though China’s interaction with international institutions implies it recognizes the importance of global governance, the country rejects the principles of liberalism that underpin it and remains wary of western intentions. This perception is influenced by China’s predominantly transactional domestic political structure, which emphasizes reciprocity over ethics. Consequently, Chinese citizens do not feel any obligation or responsibility to contribute voluntarily to society or the broader global community.

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