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

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 49378th edition (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: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,038,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
Donald Rumsfeld once famously made the distinction between the "known knowns" and the "known unknowns". The later expression provided the title for his memoirs. He could have added the two categories of the "unknown knowns"--things you know without knowing it-- and the "unknown unknowns"--things that you do not know that you don't know. These seemingly paradoxical expressions will serve me as guiding posts for reviewing Aaron Friedberg's A Contest for Supremacy, which focuses on the nascent struggle between China and America for regional preeminence and ascendancy in East Asia.

Usually a scholar working on strategic issues makes the case that his domain of specialization is the most important in the world, bar none. Not so with Professor Friedberg. Although the book's flip cover makes the bold statement that "as the twenty-first century unfolds, the United States faces no task more important than managing our mixed, complex, uncertain, and potentially unstable relationship with China," this should not be read as a vindication of the author's line of expertise. For Aaron Friedberg is not a China scholar. As he makes it clear, he is no "card-carrying member of the China-watching fraternity". Precisely because of this, he is able to give a fresh look at a subject that has occupied him fully for the previous five years, and which he has been considering "for a good deal longer than that" (no doubt his stint in government as deputy assistant for national security in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney has sensitized him to the importance of the Sino-American relationship, arguably the most strategic bilateral relation in the world). He came to study China because he deemed the topic was important, indeed vital; not the other way around.
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