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“China Goes Global” Book by David Shambaugh Essay

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Updated: May 3rd, 2021


It could be stated with certainty that the role of China as the international power that continuously grows its influence and prominence in the modern globalized world is widely recognized by numerous scholars, politicians, decision-makers, and other involved stakeholders. In the context of the consideration that the Chinese economy has been steadily and successfully developing in the past several decades, many people tend to accept the fact that China will soon become the leader of the global economy and international politics. Accordingly, the majority of people tend to believe that China’s global rise represents an evident threat to the United States in terms of the global distribution of power in economic and political spheres.

Despite the fact that numerous facts and statistical data indicate that this perspective is profound, David Shambaugh, in his book “China Goes Global: A Partial Power” argues that China is not likely to become a true global power in near future. This paper aims primarily at the critical discussion of the claims made by the author in order to develop a meaningful conclusion about the feasibility and reliability of the claims made by Shambaugh. The primary purpose of this essay is to understand the principal strengths and weaknesses of the book by Shambaugh.

Principal Claims Made by the Author

Before dwelling upon the critical discussion of the book’s strengths and weaknesses, it is essential to briefly overview principal claims made by the author throughout the book in order to put further reasoning in the proper context. Ultimately, the whole book could be summarized into one statement: in near future (if ever) China is not likely to achieve the status of the global political and economic power in the profound sense of the world. Primarily, Shambaugh mentions that the Chinese economy is indeed powerful and extensive, as this fact is difficult to deny. For example, the author states that “China is a commercial powerhouse,” with the second-largest economy in the world and a GDP of $5.87 trillion (Shambaugh 124).

However, even in the area which is appraised by the author to some degree, he also finds weaknesses that indicate that China is far from global dominance. Most evidently, China’s “exports are still dominated by generally low-end consumer products” (Shambaugh 124). Additionally, Shambaugh mentions that China is not sufficiently presented in the international market in terms of brand presence and developed multinational corporations. Moreover, “China’s financial services sector and knowledge-intensive industries still lag behind Western and other East Asian nations” (Shambaugh 124). Thus, the author concludes that, in the context of economic factors, China represents only partial global power.

Regarding other areas of concern related to the global position of China, it is possible to state that the author’s claims are even more unpromising for the country under consideration. As one of the most evident problems related to the role of China in the current political landscape, Shambaugh observes that China is not sufficiently integrated into the global political community, and thus its political power is significantly limited. Another example is the conservative, reactive foreign policy which is promoted by the Chinese government (Shambaugh 16). According to Shambaugh, such an approach decreases the ability of China to have a substantive positive impact on the global political processes. Moreover, the author makes similar claims about other areas of concern related to global politics.

In general, it is claimed by Shambaugh that steady economic growth does not ultimately contribute to gaining political presence and power. The fact that China lacks political influence in the world’s current social and political process, makes it possible to observe that the Chinese economic rise should not be perceived as the primary factor that contributes to the overall gaining of true global power. Based on these principal assumptions retrieved from the discussion of different aspects of China’s position in the contemporary world, it is possible to develop a critical assessment of the book.

Critical Assessment of the Book’s Strengths and Weaknesses

In general, it is essential to state that the book under consideration has more strengths than weaknesses. Despite the fact that some of the author’s claims are debatable to a different extent, it is apparent that his assumptions are based on thorough research and critical thinking. Ultimately, the book represents an excellent example of extensive and imaginative approaches to investigating current global political trends.

In particular, the first strength that is to be discussed is the book’s concise and logical distribution of topics. The first and the last chapters serve as introductory and concluding parts. The rest of the chapters are dedicated each to a particular aspect of the concept of global power, as presented by the author. Accordingly, there are six principal areas of concern: global identities, global governance, global diplomatic presence, global economic presence, global cultural presence, and global security presence.

This classification allows the author to investigate such a comprehensive and complicated phenomenon with such immense magnitude as the global power in a concise and logical manner. This is an evident strength of the research conducted by Shambaugh, and it also could be used as the framework for other studies in international politics and economy.

The second aspect, which should be essentially discussed in the context of the book’s strengths, is the author’s extensive analysis of various data, including statistics, economic indicators, comparison of China’s economic performance with other countries, et cetera. Such an approach to analysis allows the author to retrieve high persuasive arguments about the Chinese economic presence in the global market.

Thirdly, it is highly important to mention Shambaugh’s investigation of the factors related to Chinese diplomacy, security presence, and the country’s identity at large. Three chapters dedicated to these topics, in my opinion, constitute the most strong and persuasive arguments of the book. As it was mentioned previously, numerous people perceive China as an upcoming global leader mostly due to its rapid economic growth. However, Shambaugh exemplifies the fact that economic development cannot bring the country to global prosperity if other important aspects are not developed.

The author argues that the Chinese political structure largely prevents the country from becoming an active and effective actor in the contemporary international political scene. In particular, Shambaugh claims that the Chinese image as a country is not appealing to many countries. Also, it is mentioned that the country’s diplomatic presence is not sufficient to leave a significant impact on the political life of other countries in the contemporary globalized world.

Among the book’s evident weaknesses, which are few as was already mentioned, one can observe that the author’s discussion of the Chinese cultural presence in the world is not persuasive. Primarily, it could be stated with certainty that the Chinese language is one of the most widespread languages in the world in terms of the number of people speaking it. Apparently enough, this number largely primarily contributed by the population of China itself. However, it is also essential to mention that there is a growing trend of more and more Confucius universities being opened across the world.

Thus, the cultural presence of China is sufficiently growing. Accordingly, it could be predicted that in the near future this process will positively influence the recognition, acceptance, and presence of the Chinese culture in the global context. Moreover, it could be stated that this process would influence the overall improvement of the recognition of the Chinese global identity. Therefore, the author’s claim about the lack of cultural presence of Chine in the largely globalized world is not persuasive enough.

Recommendations and Conclusions

What could be recommended in the final section of this essay? Arguably, the overall importance of the book under consideration for everyone who is interested in the contemporary global political processes is undeniable. Moreover, in the current political and social context, many people tend to overestimate the global power of China and poorly judge the political decisions made by the country under discussion.

However, it is also essential to think critically and not underestimate the role of China as the global actor. Perhaps, the most important recommendation that could be retrieved from the book is that it is of high significance to approach the topic of the distribution of global power critically and comprehensively. In conclusion, one should state that the book by Shambaugh represents an excellent example of thorough research and critical academic thought.

Work Cited

Shambaugh, David. China Goes Global: A Partial Power. Oxford University Press, 2013.

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"“China Goes Global” Book by David Shambaugh." IvyPanda, 3 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/china-goes-global-book-by-david-shambaugh/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "“China Goes Global” Book by David Shambaugh." May 3, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/china-goes-global-book-by-david-shambaugh/.


IvyPanda. (2021) '“China Goes Global” Book by David Shambaugh'. 3 May.

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