China orders the world: Normative soft power and foreign policy by John E. Wills Jr. [book review]

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article reviewResearchpeer-review


The world’s preoccupation with the rise of China appears to have gone through at least three phases in the past thirty years. First was the thrill of China the economy, with its 1.3 billion potential consumers. This period was in the heyday of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms. Second, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s rise, was the spectacle of China as America’s significant other. This was accompanied by the so-called China threat theory to which China responded with its peaceful rise slogan in 2003 and the even less provocative peaceful development in 2004.

A more proactive turn of events occurred the following year when President Hu Jintao gave a speech at the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations in which he urged the building of a harmonious world. Like U.S. president Barack Obama’s Prague speech calling for a world free of nuclear weapons, President Hu’s harmonious world dream may not have mattered a great deal in the greater scheme of global politics—at least not until the global financial crisis, the dollar and euro debt crises, and the ongoing global economic slowdown. China emerged far more resilient than either the United States or the European Union. This observation ushered in the third phase of external interest in China’s rise: its contribution to world order.

With China routinely predicted to overtake the United States as the largest economy within a decade, the time has come to consider in greater depth how Beijing will exercise its power on the global stage. This is the question raised by China Orders the World: Normative Soft Power and Foreign Policy, published in 2011: “What will China do with this new global power? How would China run the world?” (Callahan and Barabantseva, p. 3). The question, though timely, is not a new one. Writing in the 1960s, world historian Arnold Toynbee could well have been discussing China’s role today when he said: “If a ‘Middle Empire’ was now needed as a nucleus for political unification on a global scale, China was the country that was designed by history for playing this part of world-unifier once again, this time on a literally world-wide stage.”1
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-224
Number of pages6
JournalChina Review International: a journal of reviews of scholarly literature in Chinese studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'China orders the world: Normative soft power and foreign policy by John E. Wills Jr. [book review]'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this