China’s rulers have, for the past four decades, sought to increase the country’s global role, particularly via their Belt and Road Initiative. Simon Gilbert reviews three recently published books on the repercussions of these policies, while Adrian Budd considers a study of US/Chinese tensions.
These three books, in widely different ways, all share a common thread: the use of history to understand contemporary China, particularly its growing global role. Michael Schuman’s is the most wide ranging, drawing on thousands of years of China’s history. John E Hillman looks at the hugely ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through the lens of Britain and America’s earlier imperial expansions, while Rana Mitter’s more particular focus is on the way that an interpretation of China’s wartime experience is enlisted to justify this more assertive global role.