By Mario Colella
It has never been more important to understand China than now; in the sixth volume of the China Studies Review, our unified analysis of China as a global force gives us the capacity to do so. Understanding China as a major power means having a clear grasp of the dynamics that have shaped the country, to better comprehend the prism through which Chinese policymakers see the international sphere. To this end, we hope to shed light upon China as a global actor through multiple lenses: qualitative evaluation and quantitative analysis play a vital part in our interpretation of China’s key actions abroad, as do articles focused on the distant past and the present day.
Hope Parker’s “Two Paths to the Arctic” begins our volume with a comparative study of China and Japan in the Arctic Ocean. The divergent approaches taken by these countries in both multilateral forums and direct interactions with Arctic nations show striking differences, deeply influencing China and Japan’s reception within the area. Hao Chen’s “The Failed Alliance in Non-Communist Asia” is an historical analysis of the highest quality, arguing for a new interpretation of Cold War historiography. Hao argues that a full consideration of this time period requires us to go beyond simple U.S./Soviet dichotomies; his presentation of the failed alliance between the Republic of China and the Republic of Korea epitomizes this approach.
In Jennifer Conrad’s “The Role of Sanctions in U.S.-China Economic Competition”, we find a clear-eyed presentation of the impact of sanctions on the People’s Republic of China, focusing particularly upon the role of the United States and the case of Huawei Technologies. Qiang Wu’s “China’s Use of Trade Retaliation in Territorial Disputes” looks at trade patterns through a different lens—he uses sophisticated econometric analysis to consider the impact of Chinese diplomatic confrontations on its trade with neighboring countries. Wu presents a surprising conclusion within his four case studies; hostile rhetoric has essentially no impact on affected trade. Finally, Hongyi Lin’s “Between Harmony and Chaos: An Analysis of Grand Strategy in the Ming Dynasty” provides a compelling framework for understanding the international relations of Imperial China, and supports his argument that China cannot be understood without the best of international and Chinese theoretical approaches– a valid insight today.
Indeed, the failure to fully understand China and its impact on the wider world has been catastrophic; at the current time of writing, we do not know how many thousands will perish from the novel Coronavirus, how many millions will lose their jobs, or how many additional months we will remain quarantined at home. The outbreak of COVID-19 demonstrates that China will be the shaping force of the 21st century, in both action and inaction. To fail to understand this, and to disregard the careful analysis of experts on China, would have calamitous implications for the international community.
My deepest thanks to all of the writers who submitted material for our consideration, the editors who have shaped it into professional work, and the unstinting support of the China Studies Program at SAIS; it is my privilege to share with you the best of the research conducted on China by graduate students at Johns Hopkins University.