John Wilson Lewis, Xue Litai. Imagined Enemies: China Prepares for Uncertain War. Palo Alto Stanford University Press, 2006.
Illustrations. 384 pp. $63.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8047-5391-3.
Reviewed by Walter Grunden (Bowling Green State University)
Published on H-Diplo (December, 2009)
Commissioned by Christopher L. Ball
The Coming War with Taiwan
One of the hallmarks of superpower status is the ability of a nation to extend its power and influence over its neighbors and beyond. Such power and influence can be extended both economically and militarily, among other means. Despite the impressive growth of China's national economy over the last several decades, however, its military has not kept pace with rapid reform and modernization. Thus, China has yet to achieve superpower status, at least according to authors John Wilson Lewis and Xue Litai. Their argument is compelling. In _Imagined Enemies_, Lewis and Xue argue that China has yet to become a military superpower largely because of lingering bureaucratic impediments, corruption, the continued obsession of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) with obsolete doctrines, and the failure of Deng Xiaoping to make military modernization a foremost objective in the agenda of
national reforms initiated under his leadership. Yet the authors caution that China nonetheless poses a very real military threat to Taiwan, and it has recently geared the modernization of its military forces toward an "imagined" war with Taiwan and her presumed ally, the United States.
Presented as the fourth and final installment in Lewis and Xue's brilliant series on the Chinese military, the book is a meticulous study of the evolution of the military of the People's Republic of China and the challenges that modernization has posed to it in a rapidly changing world. Now internationally recognized as leading experts on China's military, Lewis, the William Haas Professor Emeritus of Chinese Politics at Stanford University, and Xue, a research associate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, have a proven track record of explicating such complex and intriguing subjects as this in language that is accessible to nonspecialists. The purpose of this book is to go beyond the studies presented in the first three volumes in the series, which focused on the development of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and nuclear-powered submarines in China, by examining "the underlying decision processes and operations of a Chinese military on the move, the People's Liberation Army in action" (p. 6). The central thesis of the book contends that the priority placed on national modernization and economic growth came at high price for the military in the form of opportunity costs that
"narrowed the scope for military development and planning" even while the changing nature of war and its concomitant risks transformed "Chinese military doctrines, strategies, and preparations" (p. 20).
Read the rest on H-Net.
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