China's Asymmetric Statecraft: Alignments, Competitors, and Regional Diplomacy. By Yuxing Huang.

AuthorChong, Ian

China's Asymmetric Statecraft: Alignments, Competitors, and Regional Diplomacy. By Yuxing Huang. Vancouver, Canada: University of British Columbia Press, 2023. Hardcover: 274 pp.Yuxing Huang's latest book is driven by an astute observation: China's approach to weaker regional states appears to vary across time and geography even when those countries or the pertinent geopolitical issue remain relatively consistent. To explain this, Huang delves into primary sources and provides a close texture to the decision-making processes of major powers that is often absent in more abstract efforts to understand foreign policy.Unsatisfied with existing interpretations of major powers' decision-making processes when competing with regional rivals--which tend to focus on the structuralism of power asymmetries, institutions, ideologies and domestic politics--Huang argues that major powers primarily consider the political conditions of the regions that are in contention. To do so, he examines the foreign policy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in East Asia, South Asia and Indochina between the 1950s and 1970s.Importantly, Huang treats the PRC like any other great power, thereby making his interpretations of its approach to regional competition more general and, potentially, comparable with other cases, while avoiding sui generis claims of Chinese exceptionalism. Huang argues for the wider application of his book's theoretical claims. If they are correct, Beijing's actions are simply variations of great power behaviour, despite what some proponents of a "Chinese" or "Asian" approach to international relations think.His main argument is as follows: When there is a single rival in a region, the major power adopts dissimilar, selective approaches towards weaker allies but uniform strategies towards weaker non-allies. By doing so, it seeks to communicate consistency to its rival through its treatment of non-allies while addressing shared problems among its allies. If there is more than one major adversary, the major power treats weaker non-allies selectively and weaker allies uniformly. In this case, the major power in question aims to maintain an advantage over the non-allies and their backers while seeking to assure allies of its commitments to them.A particularly fascinating section of China's Asymmetric Statecraft is Huang's account of the PRC's strategy towards Taiwan between 1955 and 1965. He argues that before the appearance of the Soviet Union as a regional rival...

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