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Hugh White's 'The China Choice'

6 Aug 2012 15:07

Sometimes book launches can be memorable for what the invited talent says about the book and the writer. Back in 2006 Paul Keating launched George Megalogenis' The Longest Decade with this:

Would I write a better book? Well, of course I would. I write better than George and I know more. But George is not me and he is not John Howard and his third party view is worth something. Is it worth the world? No. But is it worth something? Indeed, it is.

Keating was in a far more generous and serious mood this morning, praising richly Hugh White's book and quoting from it extensively (as Michael Fullilove tweeted: 'Shorter Keating on Hugh White's The China Choice: buy this book.'). Keating did not put any space between himself and White's views, as another admirer of White's work, Malcolm Turnbull, did in his review in The Monthly. This was an outright endorsement.


9 Aug 2012 10:44

Dr John Blaxland is a Senior Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU.

Hugh White's recently released book, The China Choice, is an enjoyable read, capturing much of what he has blogged about on The Interpreter over the last couple of years in relation to the US and China and taking into account a number of the comments posted in response. It goes to show that blogging is a good proving ground for a work like this!

Hugh's argument focuses on what he sees as the need for an American accommodation over the rise of China, particularly in the Western Pacific. And in many ways the argument is compelling. But early on in the book he admits that senior Americans, including Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have begun making overtures along the lines he advocates. This suggests his central thesis is no longer as controversial as it once would have appeared. Most would agree that this is an encouraging sign.


10 Aug 2012 15:07

Many thanks to my ANU colleague Ian Hall for his post over on his own blog about my new book, The China Choice. Ian raises two concerns about the way I use the concept of primacy to characterise the place in Asia that America has enjoyed for the last forty years and at present seems determined to maintain.

First, he says that I do not define 'primacy' in the book in any precise way, and he is right. So let me try to explain here what I mean by it. As I wrote the book I was working with a definition I framed last year in response to a similar query posted here on The Interpreter by Stephan Fruehling.  The definition I offered Stephan was as follows:


14 Aug 2012 15:27

Ian Hall is a Senior Fellow in the Department of International Relations, ANU.

Hugh White is characteristically generous in responding to a blog post of mine about his use of the term 'primacy' in The China Choice. I hope he'll forgive a response and a widening of the discussion.

I agree with Hugh (and with Hedley Bull) that 'primacy' means 'preponderance in relation to a group of lesser states...achieved without any resort to force or the threat of force, and with no more than the ordinary degree of disregard for the norms of sovereignty...'


15 Aug 2012 13:23

Ian Hall has raised some excellent points in his latest post in our debate about whether the US exercises primacy in Asia, and what that means for how it should respond to China's rise. Five quick points in response...

First, Ian doubts that America has had the power to impose primacy on Asia. I agree. I say in The China Choice somewhere that US primacy in Asia has depended as much on Asian countries' acquiescence as on America's power to impose, which is why America only gained primacy after China acquiesced to it in 1972. And of course, that is in the nature of primacy, which is the point of Hedley Bull's definition.


24 Aug 2012 15:35

America's senior Asia diplomat, Kurt Campbell, made an intervention yesterday in the debate generated by Hugh White's The China Choice and the speech former Prime Minister Paul Keating made at the book launch.

Campbell deployed a familiar straw man, saying that he wanted to 'reject out of hand' that the US was in decline: 'The US is going to be a dynamic and powerful player in Asia for many decades to come.' Australian politicians are also fond of that line, as if it's some kind of killer blow to the arguments made by Keating and White. But I doubt either of them contest the simple fact that the US will remain a global power for the foreseeable future.

Campbell's more important criticism was that the power-sharing arrangement which critics like White and Keating call for is already coming into being. From Peter Hartcher's article:


28 Aug 2012 10:33

In the artificially narrow categories that have long demarcated the world of Australian strategy, Hugh White and Paul Dibb are sometimes lumped closely together. As former senior officials and now professors at ANU, each has played an influential role both in designing defence self-reliance for Australia and establishing that concept as the nominal, if not always actual, basis of Canberra's defence planning.

Yet their outlooks are different. And when it comes to the growth of Chinese power, the evolution of the region's security order and the optimal means by which to preserve Asia's long peace, the two are worlds apart.