ISBN: 978-0-231-20465-1

John Mueller

Ohio State University & Cato Institute (US)

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Some analysts define ‘hegemon’ as an entity that has the ability to establish a set of norms that others willingly embrace. This may suggest opinion leadership and success at persuasion more than hegemony – something like Germany in Europe. However, Huang Chin-Hao of the Yale-NUS College in Singapore argues in this ably-argued (if somewhat under-edited) book that it is a role China aspires to play in its area. As such, it implies that China, in its desire to achieve legitimacy and validation, will pay attention to the views of other countries in the area, at least when they speak collectively, and, more broadly, that international politics is much more than simply a lust for material power. He examines in depth the contentious issue of the South China Sea for the 2012–2018 period and concludes that, although they are much smaller that China, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have sometimes productively been able to alter China’s machinations in the area when those countries have been united. By contrast, he forcefully argues that freedom of navigation efforts by the United States military have been counterproductive, inspiring tit for tat responses. Particularly in the years since 2018, however, China has raised alarm with its bullying ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy, its handling of Covid, and its crackdown on Hong Kong. In result, its unfavorability ratings in polls around the world have soared from some 20 or 30 percent early in the century to 70 or 80 percent now. But Huang’s perspective suggests that in response some mellowing of China’s policy is to be expected.