Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Game in the South China Sea.

AuthorBaohui, Zhang
PositionBook review

Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Game in the South China Sea. Edited by Anders Corr. Annapolis, Maryland: The Naval Institute Press, 2018. Hardcover: 328pp.

The South China Sea has been at the forefront of Asian geopolitics since China constructed seven artificial islands in the Spratly Islands in 2013-16. China's terraforming caused a great deal of alarm not only among the other claimants but also rival Great Powers. As such, it is important to explore how the South China Sea dispute is being defined by Great Power politics. In that context, Anders Corr's edited volume. Great Powers, Grand Strategies: The New Game in the South China Sea, represents a timely contribution to the topic. The book is a collection of studies that examine the grand strategies of the Great Powers as well as key bloc actors such as ASEAN and the European Union.

China inevitably figures prominently in the book. In addition to Corr's introductory chapter, three chapters, by Bill Hayton, Ian Forsyth and James E. Fanell, examine China's strategic motives in the South China Sea. Two chapters, by Sean R. Liedman and Tonfi Kim, focus on US strategies in response to Beijing's ambitions in the South China Sea. In addition, there are three other chapters each devoted to Japan (by Takashi Inoguchi and Ankit Panda), India (by Gordon G. Chang) and Russia (by Stephen Blank). Finally, two chapters, by Leszek Buszynski and Peter M. Solomon respectively, analyse the South China Sea strategies of ASEAN and the European Union. Bernard D. Cole, a long time observer of Asian naval affairs, provides an excellent concluding chapter.

All the chapters in the book provide important insights into the South China Sea policies and strategies of the Great Powers, as well as those of ASEAN and the EU. They are rich in empirical research and sophisticated in their analysis. In short, this book constitutes an important contribution to the understanding of Great Power politics and rivalry in the South China Sea.

However, the book could have approached the issue of grand strategy more systematically. The volume does not contain a thematic chapter that lays out an analytical or theoretical framework which employs the grand strategy perspective. As a result, the various chapters do not benefit from a unifying or well-defined grand strategy concept to inform their individual cases. In fact, few chapters even attempt to consciously employ a grand strategy framework to make sense of the countries...

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