Off-Center on the Middle Kingdom; Review of Richard Bernstein's and Ross H. Munro's The Coming Conflict with China

Bernstein and Munro reject the view that Sino-American relations are fundamentally sound because China is weak, needs us as a trading partner, and relies on the United States to hold back Japan.

Issue: Summer 1997

Off-Center on the Middle Kingdom; Review of Richard Bernstein's and Ross H. Munro's The Coming Conflict with China (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)
Henry S. Rowen

The view that China presents a large threat to American interests has suddenly emerged onto the public scene. The most interesting--albeit flawed--work advancing the argument is a book by Richard Bernstein and Ross H. Munro. Most striking is their report that in 1994 the Communist Party declared the United States to be a "hegemonist" power; that is, an enemy of China. Beijing no longer sees American power in Asia as beneficial. Three events were crucial to the shift: America is seen as having been indirectly behind the student actions in Tiananmen Square; the fall of the Soviet Union both freed China strategically and showed that softness would be fatal to the Party; and the display of American prowess in the Gulf War inspired a drive for military modernization. Against the long background of humiliation by foreign imperialists, anti-Americanism has become a matter of national dignity.

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