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A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia Hardcover – August 15, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393068285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393068283
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“A stern, carefully worded warning about why the United States should be more wary of China’s meteoric rise…. In a meticulously organized study…Friedberg lays out the various ongoing arguments for containment or alignment, as well as what he extrapolates Chinese intentions to be…. An important cry to heed: China’s peaceful rise cannot disguise its aim to become ‘world number one.’” (Kirkus)

“…Friedberg’s alarm soundings have authority. China’s new wealth allows it to apply ‘soft power’ in East Asia and elsewhere, its deployment of modern technology has counteracted American influence in the region, and its economy continues to thrive even as America bogs down in two wars. Friedberg’s responses…help keep this important issue front and center.” (Alan Moores - Booklist)

“His book is tough-minded and sometimes pessimistic but there is nothing hysterical about it. On the contrary, it is sober and well-informed… A Contest for Supremacy offers a careful and compelling examination of the US-Chinese relationship from a number of angles.” (Financial Times)

“[Friedberg’s] is the most thoughtful and informative of a stream of China-threat books that have come out since the mid-1990s.” (Andrew J. Nathan - Foreign Affairs)

A Contest for Supremacy is a rigorous and comprehensive account of the state of U.S.-China strategic relations, and by far, the most thoughtful and serious book to date on the topic.” (Weekly Standard)

About the Author

Aaron L. Friedberg is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and a former deputy assistant for national security affairs in the Office of the Vice President. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
Friedberg's book is very interesting, well-thought, and clearly written.
Hande Z
Presents interesting ideas and theories regarding China's journey to become the preponderant super power of Asia and its attitude towards America's presence there.
One may not agree with all of author's opinions but content extremely well presented with provocative backups for material.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Hande Z on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Friedberg refers to the view that to "treat China as an enemy and it will become one" and issues his counter-warning that this view leads to "a lack of tolerance for dissent" and that ultimately will make America less capable of responding to China in a "measured and timely way." This sets the tone and trajectory of this book. Friedberg indeed sees China not merely as a competitor but one serious enough to be a threat to America in trade and influence. The fear that China's military might will also increase is only incidental to helping it to establish the commercial and political influence that America has. Friedberg maintains that America should not relinquish this influence. He warns against transferring technology to China that will end up in military use; he accuses China of assisting countries like Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea in acquiring nuclear weapons. He asserts that "throughout history, there has been a strong correlation between the rapid growth of a state's wealth and potential power, the geographic scope of its interests, the intensity and variety of the perceived threats to those interests, and the desire to expand military capabilities and exert influence in order to defend them." That is indeed correct. That correlation applies, of course, to America as well.

Friedberg notes and seems to agree with Wang Jisi that "U.S. grand strategy is based on the very ideology and values it promotes." Friedberg adds to that by reciting the view that America "cannot help but assert that its values are universal nor can it help itself from 'applying them to judge right and wrong in international relations and the internal affairs of other countries.'" He thus sees China not only as a nation risng in economic power, but one that threatens America in every way.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Frederick Chen on November 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Fridberg makes a case that China seeks to eject the US from East Asia. He seems to claim that most establishment figures have been seeing the relationship in rose colored lenses. He believes that the grand wager made by the US, that economic development in China will integrate it so closely with the world and develop pluralistic forces, has been a failure. He believes the US needs to emphasize the containment in contain/engagement. He believes war would ensue if the US did not contain China. All well and good. But he throws in unattributed information about millions of Chinese immigrants in Russia, and makes one believe that there is a dastardly Chinese plan to invade Burma by corrupting its officials, when it could just as easily be explained by natural human instincts to migrate to places with more opportunity.

And he never answers the question of whether the world can afford a cold/hot war between its two largest economies, each nuclear armed. A small disruption like 9/11 brought the US near to recession. An act of war would choke off world trade by raising insurance rates. It would push millions out of work. As Churchill said, it is better to jaw, jaw than to war, war.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Tiger CK on August 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In his new book, Aaron Friedberg looks at the present and future of Sino-American relations. Friedberg is far less sanguine about the relationship than many other academics are. He criticizes what he considers the mainstream view, which trusts that China will eventually liberalize and argues instead that there is a real possibility of an increasingly dangerous economic and strategic competition between what will undoubtedly be the two most important powers of the twenty-first century. The current economic situation in the United States has increased the likelihood of such competition, according to Friedberg, because it has increased China's self-confidence while weakening American credibility.

There are some areas where I strongly agreed with what Dr. Friedberg had to say but there are others where I believed that he was too alarmist about the threat of China. Friedberg argues in the book that it is time for a serious national debate about China policy. On this point, he is absolutely right. He argues that during the last several years, Washington has focused on the Middle East, North Korea and other issues that demand immediate attention but will not be as important in the grand scheme of world politics as the U.S.-China relationship. Policy makers have also plaid down the possibility of conflict with China because of the perceived need for Beijing's cooperation in the war against terror. Friedberg makes a much-needed call for Washington to increase its focus on the China issue.

I am less persuaded by Friedberg's insistence on the likelihood that China will emerge as a strategic threat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CBiscuit on April 14, 2013
Format: Paperback
Beware of a Revisionist China: A Book Report of Aaron Friedberg's `A Conquest For Supremacy'

Aaron Friedberg presents the reader with a thorough and mostly objective view of China's rise and relations with the United States. Dr.Friedberg starts off by addressing the historical perspective, showing the reader China's place in history and how relations started with the West from the 1500s. Of particular interest, how China was essentially matched if not ahead of the west up until the arrival of Portuguese explorers in early 1500s. Friedberg uses the historical perspective to depict how China has held a long deep rooted tradition of being the Asian dominate power and how they continue to see themselves as the rightful leader in the region. Essentially Friedberg uses a historical approach to make it clear how immersion from the age of discovery to Communist China under Mao have made China what it is today. After educating the reader on China's background and context he goes into what he believes truly is modern China and what its objectives are from after the cold war through 21st century. Even though Friedberg tries to present an objective viewpoint the truth is A Conquest For Supremacy essentially hides a realist argument that China's rise needs to be balanced both diplomatically and militarily by the US.
Friedberg portrays China as a rising country that is aware of the imbalance of power throughout the Pacific. To correct the imbalance A Conquest of Supremacy thoroughly goes into China's efforts to increase its status in both soft and hard power. Concerning soft power, Friedberg addresses China's attempts to increase its influence not only with other Asian countries but also with countries around the world.
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