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Book Review, NRJ 62.4

November 15, 2017 12:00 PM | David Eddy (Administrator)

China’s Quest for Great Power: Ships, Oil, and Foreign Policy

Bernard D. Cole

Captain Bernard D. Cole examines the interrelationship of naval power, energy security, and foreign policy, as well as the significance these three elements have in China’s national security policy in China’s Quest for Great Power. Cole analyzes both the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) desire to maintain legitimacy, and President Xi Jinping’s domestic and foreign policies, as well as their correlation with one another, to illustrate the importance of maritime power in China’s pursuit of continued economic prosperity and energy security. Cole successfully argues that China’s drive for national security supports China’s larger goal of reestablishing itself as a central force in the Asiatic region as well as the world. 

Cole discusses Xi Jinping’s desire to avoid “Western values” infiltrating China, and argues that the United States is China’s main strategic concern; however, he asserts that domestic concerns will overshadow foreign concerns, indubitably, as regime legitimacy of the CCP rests in Chinese society rather than issues abroad. Cole references statements and policies released by Xi as well as Beijing’s 2015 military strategy, among other military documents, to the effect that having a strong economy supersedes naval growth for China. Yet, the navy will continue to grow as maritime power ensures energy security, which is needed for continued economic growth and domestic support of the CCP. Cole asserts that, as the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s power grows, other countries will continue to grow wary of China’s mixed soft and hard policies and its focus on its own interests in the global paradigm. Growing tension will inevitably impact China’s foreign policies and continued debates on national sovereignty. 

The biggest challenge facing Cole is the constraints of a book. Cole’s analysis ends with 2016, prior to the election in China. Though he provides an excellent analysis of China’s non-transparent policies, new editions of the book will be needed as time continues to pass and China gets closer to 2049, the year of China’s modernization goal, in order to understand the country’s policies as it continues to rise in power. Despite the time constraints, Cole does an excellent job explaining that the elements of naval power, energy security, and foreign policy will remain crucial in China’s national security policy as time progresses.

Cole’s thorough research, paired with providing much needed attention to Xi Jinping’s periphery diplomacy and policy, results in a strong analysis of China and the country’s rise as a global force. Cole has convincing evidence in China’s words and actions to illustrate the nation’s goal in becoming a world power, though it remains focused on its domestic needs as opposed to concerns in the global paradigm. The insights provided on United States-China relations, as well as relations between China and the Asiatic region and world at large, will prove beneficial to academics; however, the style and approach will also appeal to general readers who are interested in China and China’s quest for power in the modern world.

  •  Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2016
  • 6-1/2” x 9-1/2”, hardcover, xii + 304 pages
  • Maps, tables, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95
  • ISBN: 9781612518381

Reviewed by Kayla E. Green, East Carolina University

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