War With China: 21 Books on the Toxic Sino-US Relationship

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Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, relations between the US and China had been tested by a trade war, mutual suspicion, and a rapidly changing geo-political environment. Does all this make war with China unavoidable? We delved into the existing literature on the topic to bring you our top 21 books to help you decide. Check them out!

The New Art of War: China’s Deep Strategy Inside the United States

by William J. Holstein

Holstein started his foreign correspondent career with UPI in Hong Kong. From this perch, he observed the enormous changes Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening policies wrought on Southern China, especially in Guangdong province just across the border from Hong Kong. Forty years later, the author leverages his long experience to chronicle China’s long-term strategy to steal American companies’ intellectual property, and repatriate its own citizens who have acquired advanced scientific knowledge in American research institutes. In the process, China has leap-frogged from one of the world’s poorest countries, to global superpower in less than half a century.

Reigning the Future: AI, 5G, Huawei, and the Next 30 Years of US-China Rivalry

by Dennis Wang

A graduate of Duke, and alumnus of Huawei Technologies as well as China’s state broadcaster, Wang is perfectly placed to analyse one of the most important and fiercest battlegrounds in the US-China rivalry; technology. Published before the author’s 21st birthday, Wang’s work is precocious in its scope and depth of analysis. As a Chinese-Canadian with insights on the US-China rivalry from both sides of the cultural curtain, readers will appreciate an account that focuses on one sector in which China’s strengths appear to be clear already. 

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

by Kai-Fu Lee

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee was formerly head of Google in China, and subsequently founded his Silicon Valley venture capital fund Sinovation Ventures. With over 30 years’ experience in the field of Artifical Intelligence, Dr. Lee has mentored the majority of modern China’s corporate AI leaders at companies such as Huawei, Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba. You couldn’t find someone better placed to comment on the US-China rivalry playing out in the AI start-ups of Silicon Valley and Hangzhou. Dr. Lee’s advocacy of China’s cultural advantages in the battle for technological supremacy may strike some readers as overly biased, but it’s a message that needs to be heard, and a challenge that needs to be answered.

Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy

by Kishore Mahbubani

The Singaporean Foreign Ministry is often a first port of call for Western diplomats seeking to understand the latest twists and turns in the People Republic’s foreign policy and domestic politics. As one of Singapore’s highest-ranking and experienced diplomats, Mahbubani is used to explaining the problem of China to the wider world. Provocative and engaging, his work poses stark questions that complacent western policy makers would be wise to confront sooner rather than later.

Unrestricted Warfare: China’s Master Plan to Destroy America

by Qiao Liang, Wang Xiangsui

Firstly, we have reason to doubt that the authors of this book are, or ever have been, ranking officers in the People’s Liberation Army, and we’re also pretty sure the book does not reflect the contents of any supposedly secret PLA strategy documents. However, the authors are clearly well-read in modern military strategy, both traditional and asymmetric forms. The book’s value comes in providing the Chinese perspective on these military theories, and their potential application in any future armed confrontation between the two powers. As Sun-Tzu wrote: “Know your enemy.”

The China Threat: How the People’s Republic Targets America

by Bill Gertz

Gertz, the Washington Times’s national security correspondent, was famously once threatened by an aggrieved CIA analyst with a cruise missile being launched at his desk in the newspaper’s offices. The supposed offence? Criticizing the Agency’s China analysis. Originally published in late 2000, Gertz’s prescient warning of China’s aggressive expansion, and determined push to displace America from its naval domination of the Western Pacific, becomes more relevant with every passing day.

The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage

by Mara Hvistendahl

A chance encounter in a cornfield in Iowa in Fall 2011 led to the opening of a two-year special investigation by the FBI into Chinese efforts to steal agricultural secrets from America’s leading agro-science conglomerates. Hvistendahl recounts every step of this bizarre episode in the history of America’s sadly ineffectual counter-intelligence efforts against Chinese corporate espionage. As a former correspondent in Shanghai for Science magazine, Hvistendahl brings her nearly decade-long experience of living in the country to bear on her analysis of the two countries’ shadow dances to gain technological supremacy.

China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine

by Rosemary Gibson, Janardan Prasad Singh

Published in 2018. “Prescient” doesn’t even describe it. Horrifying even before you were washing your hands 20 times a day and wearing a surgical mask in your sleep.

Trump vs. China: Facing America’s Greatest Threat

by Newt Gingrich

The jacket cover has recommendations from Eric Trump and Rush Limbaugh. Two of the five appendices are transcriptions of speeches on China by President Trump.

It does have to be said that this book possibly represents the most accurate insight into the current President’s thinking on China. So, you know, silver linings.

Schism: China, America, and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System

by Paul Blustein

Remember the trade war? Doesn’t get many column inches these days in the era of coronavirus, but the unravelling of the myriad interlinking sectors of the two countries’ economies has been one of the key stories of the Trump administration so far. Blustein, a former journalist at the WSJ and Washington Post, delves into the history of China’s accession to the WTO and the lurid details of how that just didn’t play out as anyone hoped…..or expected. A premonition of China’s attitude toward a rules-based global order, before the era of total, deep suspicion had properly set in.

The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower

by Michael Pillsbury

One of the US government’s longest serving and most experienced policy advisers on China serves up his analysis of the Chinese government’s underlying goals and motivations over the past 40+ years of reform and opening, and what America needs to do to combat it. Pillsbury is a fluent Mandarin speaker (from 06:25 onwards), steeped in the same philosophical and historical texts as the Chinese intelligence officers and senior military commanders he has interacted with regularly over his long career. His contribution to our most basic assumptions about China’s intended role in the world cannot be overlooked.

The Transpacific Experiment: How China and California Collaborate and Compete for Our Future

by Matt Sheehan

Dissecting the US-China relationship in microcosm, Sheehan has produced a fascinating account of the synergies and frictions that play out on a daily basis between the two countries in a single US state. From San Francisco housing projects to multi-million dollar real estate deals in the Bay Area and several stop-offs in between, the author weaves a fascinating portrayal of everyday interaction that brings real people’s faces and concerns to the high-level foreign policy debates of how to “deal with” a rising China.

Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific

by Michael Fabey

Fabey, a Pulitzer-nominated journalist, gained access to senior sources within the military commands of both the US and Chinese navies currently facing off on an almost daily basis in the South China Sea. As China seeks to aggressively demarcate the sea as essentially their own internal Mediterranean, the US Navy leads the effort in maintaining open seas in a region of the Pacific Ocean whose sea lanes see an estimated $5 trillion-worth of trade each year. With implications for the naval security of the entire western Pacific, this on-going shoving match between the two navies risks bursting out into open warfare at the slightest miscalculation.

When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail

by Eric Jay Dolin

Didn’t it used to be so much more simple? Time was you could dispatch Captain Morgan out over the horizon with his black-flagged ships to terrorise any Asian nation who defied your order to open their markets to “free” trade, and expect him to come back with duly-signed trade treaties from suitably subdued potentates. At most there might just be a moderate naval bombardment required to shove the process along. How times change…….

Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?

by Graham Allison

Taking his cue from the Western world’s true father of history (get out of it, Herodotus), who posited that conflict was inevitable between a fading power and a rising one, Allison seeks to apply this to the current US-China state of affairs. A Harvard Professor, Allison takes an historical approach to the problem by analyzing the previous 16 cases of such a state of international affairs in the last 500 years. Spoiler alert: the odds are not in peace’s favor. Allison’s book became hugely popular in the foreign policy sets in both Washington and Beijing; although it was noticeable that the Chinese were more vigorous than their American counterparts in asserting that there was no such risk of war.

Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century

by Richard McGregor

McGregor’s previous book, The Party, detailed the inner workings of the Chinese government. Now, the author has turned his analytical eye towards the problematic three-way relationship between the US, China and Japan. This is an important perspective, since any American response to China’s rise will inevitably be taken in close co-operation with her allies in the region; not only Japan, but South Korea, Taiwan and even Vietnam among others. This multi-lateral approach to the issue of hegemony, at least in the Pacific, during the course of the coming century and beyond brings valuable insights to a relationship all too often viewed through a limited, bilateral lense.

In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony

by Eamonn Fingleton

Published in 2008, the author of the book raised eyebrows at what at first glance appears to be an overly pessimistic, even outwardly vitriolic, analysis of China’s economic rise, and the Confucian values that the author attributes to be the backbone of Chinese statecraft and social control. And yet, in the years since the book came out, Fingleton’s warnings of the American economic system’s susceptibility to a targeted assault by Chinese businesses and large scale investment have only proved more and more accurate. A former editor of both the Financial Times and Forbes, the author’s inside knowledge of corporate America enabled him to sound the early alarm bells at the system’s endemic weaknesses. Sadly, few appear to have been paying attention.

The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present

by John Pomfret

As the former bureau chief for The Washington Post in Beijing, and one of the first batch of American students to be permitted to study in China in the early 1980s, Pomfret brings his fluent Mandarin and long experience of China to bear on this lengthy meditation on the two countries’ relationship. Delving far back to the early days of the (American) Revolution right up to the present day, Pomfret chronicles how China and America have repeatedly been brought together by trade, but pushed apart by fundamental cultural differences and misunderstandings.

Easternization: Asia’s Rise and America’s Decline From Obama to Trump and Beyond

by Gideon Rachman

Although the title indicates Asia as a whole, the real focus of this book inevitably is the relationship between the Asian superpower, China, and America. As chief foreign affairs commentator at the Financial Times, and previously as a correspondent for the Economist, Rachman’s book is the product of a lifetime spent reporting on and observing China’s economic re-birth. Easternization goes one step further though, and offers predictions for the future of the great power rivalry; although recent events seem to provide an early retort to the author’s overly-rosy future.

Debating China: The U.S.-China Relationship in Ten Conversations

by Nina Hachigian

It’s perhaps telling that so few books, or news articles, or documentaries for that matter, seek to bring both sides together in a dialogue. Hachigian does just that, and the results are illuminating. Presented in the form of an exchange of letters between pairs of scholars and senior government officials from both countries, Debating China provides an unrivalled insight into the differing perspectives on both sides of the current rivalry. The topics covered range from the internet, to society, military affairs and climate change. Hachigian offers a novel and creative format for exploring the tensions, as well as points of common agreement, between the US and China.

The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy

by Edward N. Luttwak

Luttwak is a titan in the fields of military strategy and statecraft. He also happens to be a senior advisor to the US government, and author of such weighty tomes as The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. The guy does macro-strategy. Interestingly, it is just this perspective that is commonly assumed to be prevalent amongst Beijing’s key officials. The Rise of China represents a brilliantly broad and erudite application of strategic theory to China’s future potential expansion, and the risks inherent in such a vast project.

There you go guys – 21 books on the toxic relationship between the US and China. Is war with China coming? Do you have any better books on the subject? Let us know in the comments below.

Remember to check out our Current Events page for more recommendations on the best books to help you understand the latest headlines in the news.

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