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China, Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise

Susan Shirk, Director, UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California, San Diego.

February 6, 2008 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Once a sleeping giant, China today is the world’s fastest growing economy—the leading manufacturer of cell phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras—a dramatic turnaround that alarms many Westerners.  But in China: Fragile Superpower, Susan L. Shirk opens up the black box of Chinese politics and finds that the real danger lies elsewhere—not in China’s astonishing growth, but in the deep insecurity of its leaders.   China’s leaders face a troubling paradox: the more developed and prosperous the  country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel.

Shirk, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for China, knows many of today’s Chinese rulers personally and has studied them for three decades.  She offers invaluable insight into how they think—and what they fear.  In this revealing book, readers see the world through the eyes of men like President Hu Jintao and former President Jiang Zemin.  Theirs is a regime afraid of its own citizens, and this fear motivates many of their decisions when dealing with the U.S. and other foreign nations.  In particular, the fervent nationalism of the Chinese people has made relations with Japan and Taiwan a minefield.

Shirk argues that rising powers such as China tend to provoke wars in large part because other countries mishandle them.  Unless we understand China’s brittle internal politics and the fears that motivate its leaders, we face the very real possibility of conflict with China.  This book provides that understanding.

“Susan Shirk has written the definitive book at the right time.”
Madeleine K. Albright

Susan L. Shirk, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for U.S. relations with China, is Director of the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and she is a professor at UC-San Diego’s Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.  A leading authority on China, she has been visiting that country since 1971, meeting with top Chinese officials, and has written numerous books and articles on this subject, including pieces that have appeared in The Washington Post, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal.