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450 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 Alastair Iain Johnston. Cultural Realism: Strategie Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History. Princeton Studies in International History and Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. xiii, 307 pp. Hardcover $39.50, isbn 0-691-02996-2. It has long been conventional wisdom that one of the distinguishing features of Chinese strategy is a marked preference for nonviolent or minimally violent solutions to security problems. This view colors most of the modern secondary literature , both Chinese and Western, and has rarely been questioned. After all, Sunzi himself tell us that "attaining one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the pinnacle of excellence. Subjugating the enemy's army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence" (Sawyer translation, p. 177). In this intricate and closely reasoned study based on the systematic analysis of implied and asserted cause-effect relationships in the Seven Military Classics and Ming memorials dealing with frontier policy, Alastair Iain Johnston challenges the established view. He argues that the "core paradigm" of Chinese strategic thought differs little from Western realpolitik views: conflict is seen as both unavoidable and zero-sum, violence is regarded as highly efficacious and preferable to all nonviolent approaches, and offensive strategies are favored over static defense. Furthermore, Johnston concludes that these views had a measurable effect on Chinese policies toward the Mongols during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). A political scientist and student of Chinese foreign policy, Johnston does not approach his subject from a traditional sinological perspective. The conceptual framework for this study, along with its central question and a fair amount ofjargon , is provided by international-relations theory. In that context, the book is intended as a contribution to the debate between the dominant structural-realist school, which holds that a state's behavior is determined by ahistorical, structural factors such as relative capabilities and position in an anarchic multistate system, and the advocates of "strategic culture," who argue that deeply rooted cultural preferences exert a significant influence on strategic choice. Johnston's sympathies are with the cultural approach, but he is extremely critical of most of the existing literature for its lack ofmethodological rigor and its failure to offer a definition of "strategic culture" that can be tested empirically. On one level, then, this book is a more rigorous test for the existence and influence of strategic culture that happens to take Chinese culture as the object of study. y niversityJohnston begins by defining strategic culture in terms ofa "central paradigm " that offers answers to three related questions: die nature of conflict, the nature of the enemy, and the efficacy ofviolence. From this central paradigm there follows a preference ranking of the three most basic grand strategic options ofHawai'i Press Reviews 451 (offense, defense, and accommodation). The job is then to search for evidence of a central paradigm and preference ranking in selected "objects ofanalysis," in this case the Seven Military Classics (Wujing qi shu) (a set ofmilitary treatises mostly dating from the Warring States period tiiat were brought together as the basic curriculum for military examinations in the last quarter ofthe eleventh century), three Ming military treatises ofcomparable scope and content, and 120 Ming memorials on policy toward the Mongols (ofwhich sixteen are subjected to especially close scrutiny). Analysis of these texts centers on statements asserting or implying cause-effect relationships, especially those in which the result is the weakening of the enemy or the security ofthe state. Though the texts contain many contradictory signals, this method provides a convincing means of determining which message is primary and which secondary. Johnston finds enough congruence between the preference rankings of the Seven Military Classics, the Ming military treatises, and the Ming memorials to conclude that China does indeed have a strategic culture, and one with tremendous staying power over time. This strategic culture, which he labels "the parabellum paradigm," flows from a zero-sum view of conflict and favors violence over accommodation and offense over defense. This basic preference, however , is moderated by another lesson of the military texts, the concept of quan bian (or "absolute flexibility"), which holds that under unfavorable circumstances one must settle temporarily for a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 450-453
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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