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The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China--and How America Can Win
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The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China--and How America Can Win [Kindle Edition]

Geoff A. Dyer

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"Fascinating . . . Stimulating, erudite, and deeply researched, perfectly timed to explain the unfolding conflicts in East Asia." 
Ian Johnson, The New York Review of Books

"Forward-looking . . . enjoy and learn from this engagingly written tour d’horizon of important issues . . . Dyer opens with a clear statement of his thesis, a straightforward one with good prospects for having a long shelf life. China’s rise will continue. . . Eminently sensible . . . A fluent writer who knows how to make the most of lively set pieces."
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, The Financial Times

"Stellar . . . Mr. Dyer is optimistic that the U.S. will "win": that is, "retain its role at the center of international affairs." But he doesn't subscribe to unwarranted zero-sum logic."
—Ali Wyne, The Wall Street Journal

"Assessing China's growing rivalry with the U. S., the author, a former Beijing bureau chief for the Finanical Times, does not subscribe to the idea of a "linear transfer" of power from the U. S. to China . . . he thinks that the contest with China will come to define U. S. foreign policy, and that America's interests are best served by fiscal and military restraint."
The New Yorker

“[L]ucid, well-argued…With telling anecdotes and reported conversations, [Dyer] shows how China's foreign policy has misfired in east Asia, ‘doing a lot of America's diplomatic work for it’ by frightening its neighbours. And he traces the limits of China's expansion into the Indian Ocean and its vulnerabilities given its dependency on imports of raw materials. But his is far from an America-triumphant story. China is not going to go away as a major global player, and Dyer concludes that, over time, it and the US will have to find a way to live together, particularly in the ocean between them.”
The Guardian (UK)
“[P]rovide[s] a corrective to the lately fashionable gloom-and-doom analysis...Even now, there is reluctance to identify China as a competitor, perhaps born of difficulty conceiving of this possibility. Unlike our last major competitor, the Soviet Union, China is also a major trade partner, and China continues to represent a market opportunity in the eyes of many Western business interests. So we are tempted to jump from denial to defeatism. Not Dyer…[I]mpressive.”
The National Interest 
“[D]ismisses the idea that a transition of global leadership from a declining America to a rising China is predetermined. [Dyer] makes his case by assessing the military, political, and economic dimensions of the competition, including the many dilemmas and challenges that China faces in its quest for primacy... convincingly argues that China has many limitations and obstacles to its aspirations as a great power.”
The Weekly Standard

"Well researched, with detailed information, interviews and evidence . . . Those who want a comprehensive treatment of an important issue that will shape much of our world for the next 20 years should read this book."
—Mark O'Neill, South China Morning Post

"Original ideas and illuminating insights . . .  a simple but persuasive explanation for why a geopolitical contest between the United States and China will dominate the new century . . . a very timely book that has a clear and sophisticated argument. For the cottage industry of books on contemporary Chinese foreign relations, The Contest of the Century has definitely set a new and more demanding standard."
—Minxin Pei, San Francisco Gate

“[I]lluminating . . . Dyer’s lively prose, vivid reportage, and long experience reporting on the country really shine, making this one of the most lucid, readable, and insightful of the current rise-of-China studies.”
Publishers Weekly

The Contest of the Century is a perfect antidote to all the noise that passes for journalism these days. Here is a seasoned foreign correspondent calmly taking the measure of Asia's pivotal giant.”
—Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography

“A colorful and compelling read that offers three crucial insights. America’s relationship with China will define the 21st century. Their relations will be far more subtle and dynamic than post-Cold War conventional wisdom suggests. There is nothing inevitable about either China’s rise or the outcome of the two countries’ competition. This is a fascinating story from an experienced journalist who knows how to tell it.”
—Ian Bremmer, author of Every Nation for Itself


From the former Financial Times Beijing bureau chief, a balanced and far-seeing analysis of the emerging competition between China and the United States that will dominate twenty-first-century world affairs—an inside account of Beijing’s quest for influence and an explanation of how America can come out on top.

The structure of global politics is shifting rapidly. After decades of rising, China has entered a new and critical phase where it seeks to turn its economic heft into global power. In this deeply informed book, Geoff Dyer makes a lucid and convincing argument that China and the United States are now embarking on a great powerstyle competition that will dominate the century. This contest will take place in every arena: from control of the seas, where China’s new navy is trying to ease the United States out of Asia and reassert its traditional leadership, to rewriting the rules of the global economy, with attempts to turn the renminbi into the predominant international currency, toppling the dominance of the U.S. dollar. And by investing billions to send its media groups overseas, Beijing hopes to shift the global debate about democracy and individual rights. Eyeing the high ground of international politics, China is taking the first steps in an ambitious global agenda.

Yet Dyer explains how China will struggle to unseat the United States. China’s new ambitions are provoking intense anxiety, especially in Asia, while America’s global influence has deep roots. If Washington can adjust to a world in which it is no longer dominant but still immensely powerful, it can withstand China’s challenge. With keen insight based on a deep local knowledge—offering the reader visions of coastal Chinese beauty pageants and secret submarine bases, lockstep Beijing military parades and the neon media screens of Xinhua exported to New York City’s Times Square—The Contest of the Century is essential reading at a time of great uncertainty about America’s future, a road map for retaining a central role in the world. 

From the Hardcover edition.

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Geoff Dyer is a journalist for the Financial Times and has been a correspondent in China, the U.S., and Brazil. He is the recipient of a Fulbright award and of several journalism awards, including a Society of Publishers in Asia Award for a series of opinion pieces about China’s role in the world in 2010. He studied at Cambridge and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He lives with his family in Washington, D.C.

Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.


Beijing was in a state of heightened anxiety and had been for weeks. Each day in the run-up to the National Day parade, the security measures seemed to get a little bit tighter. Our apartment building had a distant view of Jianguomen, which is the main east-west avenue that runs through the center of Beijing, traversing Tiananmen Square along the way, and which was to be the main parade route. During rehearsal the Sunday before, we were told not to go onto our balconies. “What happens if we do? Will we be shot?” a neighbor jokingly asked. The building manager replied in a deadpan manner, “Maybe; who knows?” All the pigeons in the city were locked up and kite flying was banned, presumably to prevent undesirable threats to the safety of airspace. On the day itself, the two blocks on either side of the route were closed off to passersby. The 2009 event was to be the sixtieth anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, the first parade in a decade, and only the fifth time since the 1950s that such an event had been held. But, unlike in previous October 1 parades, no ordinary people were allowed to line the route and watch the festivities. The center of Beijing was hermetically sealed off from the city’s residents. For everyone but the invited crowd of VIPs and journalists, this was a television-only spectacle. Despite the country’s booming wealth, China’s rulers can often seem insecure, looking anxiously over their shoulders at the people they govern. In the weeks leading up to the parade, they had conducted a crackdown on human-rights lawyers, and three months later they ordered an eleven-year jail sentence for Liu Xiaobo, the democracy activist who would later win the Nobel Peace Prize. The heavy-handed security was fruit of this nervy mindset.
A few hours before the parade was to start, I watched a stream of maybe fifty, maybe one hundred buses pass by, all with a regulation thirty meters in between them. The first group stood out because of the bright clothes of the excited young people inside—this bus orange, that one green, another blue. The next group were filled with soldiers in dress uniform, some trying to catch a last-minute nap, their heads pressed against the glass. With precision timing, they were being ferried to their starting places for a three-hour-long spectacle which was at times intimidating, at times impressive, and at times folksy, but never anything but meticulous. Like the morning mist, which lifted to make way for bright sunshine, the pre-parade paranoia quickly evaporated. By midday, two hundred thousand soldiers and civilians had taken part in the procession, and I did not see a single foot put wrong. It was a display that mixed North Korean mass choreography with the sort of swagger the Soviets used to muster for May Day. The kids in colored T-shirts that I had seen on the buses filled the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square to hold up cards that formed gigantic phrases: “Obey the Party’s Command,” “Be Loyal to the Party,” and “Long Live the Mother- land.” For an hour, the military showed off the very latest of its hard- ware, the product of two decades of double-digit spending increases. There were the J-10 fighter jets, China’s first homegrown jets, and a long line of DF-31A intercontinental ballistic missiles, which have the range to hit Los Angeles, and which the Xinhua News Agency later described as “remarkable symbols of China’s defense muscle.” A decade before, much of the weaponry on display had been bought from Russia; this time it was all developed at home.
Military parades have been a feature of Chinese statecraft for centuries. During the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1912), victory ceremonies were often organized for the emperor to demonstrate his authority, and under the Communists they have been revamped for television. Geremie Barmé, an Australian expert on Chinese culture, recalls that in 1984, which also happened to be the year of Deng Xiaoping’s eightieth birth- day, a group of students from Peking University held up an impromptu sign during the parade that said “Hello Xiaoping.” As this was not in the script, the television cameras missed it. Once the event had finished, the spontaneous greeting was restaged and edited into the official broad- cast. In 2009, the television highlight was the contingent from the Beijing Women’s Militia, who marched in precise fashion past the podium in red miniskirts and knee-high white boots, and who, Chinese media later revealed, were all models specially chosen for their uniform height. The main audience for the parades was the domestic one, which was to be both entertained and cowed by the organizational capacity of the Chinese state. But China is too big and too important for such an event to go unnoticed overseas. China’s leaders knew that images of its bristling military display would be beamed around the planet and seemed untroubled if the outside world was also a little intimidated. “It represents the realization of the great revival of the Chinese nation as a result of tireless struggle,” as the army described the event.
Before the military parade reached Tiananmen Square, the soldiers stopped in a long column along the main avenue to be reviewed by then President Hu Jintao. He was standing in the back of a Red Flag, China’s homegrown limousine, his head and upper body visible through the sunroof as it drove past the troops. Hu, a gray bureaucrat skilled at the inner workings of the party, went out of his way to cut a dour public profile, an almost deliberate anti–cult of personality. Dressed in a Mao tunic buttoned to the top, and with his dyed black hair immaculately coiffed, he seemed at first to have a slightly comic air, and I chuckled when a colleague quipped about his resembling an Austin Powers vil- lain. Yet, as he boomed into the microphone in front of him “Tongzhi- men hao” (“Greetings, comrades”) and “Tongzhimen xinku le” (“Thanks for all the suffering, comrades”), his voice, echoing all around the vast square, was a little chilling. Stern-faced, he returned to the podium at the gate of the Forbidden City, right above the giant oil portrait of Mao Zedong, and stood on the same spot where sixty years earlier Mao had declared that the “Chinese people have stood up.” Flanked on both sides by the other eight members of the Communist Party’s Standing Committee, the body that really runs the country, all dressed in dark business suits with red ties, Hu addressed the crowd. “Today a socialist China, geared toward modernization, the world, and the future, stands rock-firm in the East,” he declared. It was his biggest applause line.
Just over two decades before, the same square had been the scene of bloodshed. In the streets surrounding Tiananmen, Chinese soldiers massacred hundreds—maybe thousands—of Beijing residents as they tried to clear the student-led protests. Realizing their legitimacy had been called into question, Chinese leaders would sit somewhat meekly for years afterward as foreigners lectured them on the need to change their political system. Bill Clinton once told his counterpart, Jiang Zemin, that the Chinese Communist Party was “on the wrong side of history.” The scars from those events contributed to a desire among China’s leaders to maintain a low profile overseas and to focus on development at home. Shortly after the massacre, Deng Xiaoping devised his famous slogan to define Chinese foreign policy, advising his col- leagues to taoguang yanhui—literally, “hide the brightness and nourish obscurity.” Deng knew that the resurgence of China’s...
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