Does China Matter?: A Reassessment: Essays in Memory of Gerald Segal (New International Relations)

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Buzan, Barry.

Foot, Rosemary, —. D64 He has recently co-authored two volumes on regional theory and practice: New Regionalisms in the Global Political Economy: Theories and Cases and Microregionalism and World Order A specialist in East Asian foreign policy, politics and security, particularly Contributors 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 3 ix with regard to China, he is the author of the forthcoming volume entitled: Contrasting Visions: United States, China and World Order Brookings Institution Press.

David S. Samuel S. His recent publications include: China and The World ed.

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He is Founding Director of the Evian Group, a coalition for liberal global governance, based on a network of business, government and opinion leaders from both developed and developing countries. Michael B. Had he lived, it is certain that he would have followed it up with a book on the same theme. Nobody can write the book that Gerry would have written, but the question of the title remains central to world politics, and the article gives clear guidance on what the main themes should be.

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Chapters 3—10 make a more systematic distinction between the Asian and the global forums than Gerry did, and also separate out the core themes of economy, military, politics and culture. They ask how well his points have stood up over the intervening years, and attempt to project their likely durability. Aside from these general guidelines, each author has been free to give the subject their own interpretation. We would like to thank Edwina Moreton for giving her blessing to this project, and for helping with some of the background research.

Moreover, because China is one of the few ancient civilizations that has managed to survive to the present day, for many people it seems almost self-evident that China must always have played an important role in world politics. Of course, China matters! It was primarily a didactic question, designed to get policy-makers and the general public to rethink what Segal considered conventional but erroneous wisdom.

By the same token, however, Segal did not intend to suggest that China does not matter. If this were the answer to the question that he was asking, then it would have required him to stand much of his previous writing on its head. The problem for Segal was that this message had been taken too much to heart, and it was now being assumed that China had already reached a position of unassailable dominance in international society. As a consequence, decision-makers were intent on devising policies that rested on a false premise.

Whatever might happen in the future, Segal was quite clear that China had not yet achieved great-power status, and he was equally sure that it was extremely unwise to be formulating policies on the basis of the assumption that this status has already been achieved. It follows that it is essential to engage in constant reality checks to minimize the inevitable gap that exists between reality and the image of reality that decision-makers adhere to.

Segal asked whether China matters, therefore, to encourage decision-makers and others to engage in a more rigorous form of reality checking. It is tragic, of course, that Gerry is unable to participate in this venture. But it is unlikely that the main thrust of his argument would have changed. None of the contributors to this book accept his line of argument uncritically, and some depart very substantially from his position. It is, after all, not the fundamental questions about international relations that change — only the answers.

Written in his customary crisp and snappy style, the article was illustrative of the particular approach to international politics that he had developed as a mature scholar and commentator. Although Segal was not interested in theory as such, he had a distinctive mode of analysis. He combined a tough-minded appreciation of the realities of power with a belief in the liberalizing effects of market economics allied to governmental transparency and accountability.

Above all, Segal delighted in challenging the conventional wisdom of the day. This article was intended as a kind of wake-up call for many in Washington and elsewhere. However, the article should be seen as more than just a polemic and more than an argument addressed to policy-makers.


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Segal authored or co-authored 13 books, was a contributing editor or co-editor to 17 more, published over articles in scholarly journals and wrote newspaper commentaries and op-ed pieces that are too numerous to count. He regarded himself more as a generalist who took an interest in China. He never studied the Chinese language, nor took time out to immerse himself in Chinese culture. A Canadian by birth, he graduated from the Hebrew University in at the age of 23, where his major was international politics and his minor was in Asian politics.

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Gerry then went on to the London School of Economics to carry out a research degree under my supervision. He was awarded his Ph.


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These qualities included an independent cast of mind that delighted in challenging established views with reasoned argument, deploying wit and a wonderful facility with words. They also included a concern with a generalist approach in seeking to explain how international politics worked, rather than a more countrycentred point of departure in which politics was explained with reference to the particularities of culture. Given his initial interest in the modalities of strategic relations between the great powers, his earlier writings may be seen to fall squarely within the tradition of power politics.

He was particularly interested in exploring how these affected relations between China and the Soviet Union. His Ph. Based on what might be seen as a neo-realist structuralist approach, Segal sought to show how the dynamics of triangular power politics shaped developments in Indo-China — from the lack of direct American military intervention in Laos to its initially slow and then massive intervention in Vietnam. Not for him claims that China should be dealt with on its own terms, that is in the self-serving terms advanced by its leaders or by those close to them.

Accordingly, Segal was able to dispense praise and criticism according to clear criteria.

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Segal also wrote, with his mentor, Ellis Joffe, on the changing roles of the military in Chinese politics Joffe and Segal, Meanwhile he continued to publish on other matters of abiding interest to him, such as strategic questions, Soviet foreign policy and Sino-Soviet relations Baylis et al. For most of the s, Segal taught successively at the Universities of Wales Aberystwyth , Leicester and Bristol respectively. His lack of sinological skills and interests did not pass unnoticed, but they did not prove a barrier to communication.

He visited China several times in the s, but gave me the impression that at this stage he did not gain much of intellectual value in his exchanges with Chinese academics. Yahuda interlocutors found his views of great interest, even if provocative at times. In fact, both sides found it easier to exchange views in the UK, rather than in China, where the Chinese found themselves more constrained from speaking openly about what were for them sensitive issues.

By this stage in his intellectual development, Segal had begun to place emphasis less on seeking to analyse how a particular point was reached in foreign or domestic affairs than on what were the implications for the future. In other words, his analysis began to take on a more forwardlooking dimension. This came easily to a scholar who was also interested in the policy implications of his analysis.

As a close student of Sino-Soviet relations before the collapse of the Soviet Union in , Segal was early in detecting the thaw in relations between the two in the early s. He convened several meetings and conferences at the RIIA where he was then based to focus on the implications for foreign policy and foreign policy-making Segal, Although as far as China was concerned, this could have been construed as essentially a domestic issue calling for particular sinological skills, Segal was able to bring his more broadbased interests into play through considering the Chinese case in a crosscommunist comparative framework Segal, a.

That is to say that he saw the potentiality of reform communism to lead to a more transparent rules-based order that would allow those countries to be better integrated into the international community by following the market, becoming more pluralistic and eventually democratic. By now Segal was beginning to cast his net more widely in geographical terms.

Segal challenged much of that. Finally, in what ways could the outside world and the West in particular prevent China from using force in pursuit of its irredentist agenda and promote its integration into international society? These of course were not questions that endeared Segal to the Chinese authorities. His Adelphi Paper on the possible disintegration of China Segal, proved to be a breaking point. Apparently, the analysis was interpreted as advocacy, and it was even misconstrued as advising Western governments to contribute to the break-up of China.

Thereafter Segal was denied access to China until shortly before his death. This also led to the development of small, professional armed forces, and to an aversion to the use of military force. In other words, Segal very much recognized the advantages of deepening the economic, social and political relations with China which, like others, he argued would lead in time to fundamental domestic change, which was necessary if China were to be integrated into the international community.

The former went too far in meeting the potential Chinese threat that in the case of Taiwan and the disputed islands in the South China Sea was sometimes all too real so as to provide no incentives for China to adopt more participatory international norms. It was only through the deepening of its interdependence with the outside world that China would change its domestic governance for the better.

Such considerations provided a particular impetus to follow developments in Hong Kong and Taiwan. The impending return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty was seen by Segal as a potential threat to the key institutions of the territory such as the rule of law, a clean civil service, press and academic freedoms, and so on.

China's foreign policy dilemma

He stood full square behind the attempt by the last Governor, Chris Patten, to anchor these in a more democratic framework. His book on the subject dwelt on how the international dimensions of Hong Kong could help to sustain its liberal way of life beyond the reversion in His interest in Taiwan was stimulated by the democratization of the island in the s despite the continuing threat from Beijing. He saw that as a necessary component of the policy of engagement. Towards the end of the s, Segal became more uneasy about what he regarded as the uncritical adoption of engagement policies by many in the China policy and academic communities in the United States.

He was also dismayed by the unthinking embrace of the myth of the Chinese market by business people in the United States and Europe.

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In his view, this uncritical approach to China risked bringing about precisely the opposite of what was intended. Treating China in this way would discourage pro-Western neighbours from looking to the West to deter a more assertive China. They might then have little alternative except to accommodate China by policies of appeasement. He tended to touch on subjects that were seen as highly sensitive, and that affected notions of patriotic self-esteem.

But at the same time he dealt with these matters in a policy-oriented way. They sought his views, but preferred to do so in private. Yahuda was, according to a well-informed Chinese source, seized on as a kind of casus belli by the then Chinese ambassador in London, Ma Yuzhen. He claimed that the monograph amounted to a form of advocacy for the break-up of China and to a call upon Western governments to encourage disintegration and to take advantage of the fragmentation.

Undaunted, Segal continued with his writings and commentaries without regard as to whether they were agreeable to the powerful. Many Chinese academics and researchers, however, took a different view. Some tried to invite him to participate in conferences in China. Of course no reason was given for the lifting of the bar.