Xuetong, Yan, Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019. xvi + 260 pages, Hardcover, $29.95.
Over the years, international relations scholars frequently based their analyses on Hans Morgenthau' realist theory, which emphasizes power politics. Consequently, conducting diplomacy in the international arena was frequently understood to be amoral. The title under review runs contrary and may be viewed as a game changer for a new breed of international relations' scholars, who want to apply a humanistic face in conducting foreign policy. One of the pioneers of this line thinking is Yan Xuetong, professor of political science and dean of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In his new book, Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers, the focal point is morality as an instrument of conducting foreign policy. The central questions that this book grapples with are: "why do great powers rise" and "how does a challenger actually displace the Hegemon?" Beyond these questions, Xuetong aims to demonstrate how China could displace United States and then become the great power.
Xuetong explains China's rise utilizing moral-realist theory combined with classical Chinese political theory (and ancient Chinese philosophies--which the books outlines well for novice Western readers) and places an emphasis on political leadership. To understand the rise of a world power, one should look at the quality of the country's leadership rather than specific strategies or events. Xuetong rationalizes that the stronger a rising state's political leadership, the more likely it is to displace a prevailing state in the international arena. He explains the mechanism by which a rising state can replace a dominant state and become a new world leader. The mechanism he proposes is the attribute of political power buttressed with "morally informed leadership." He also states "rulers who acted in accordance with moral norms, whenever possible tended to win the race for over long-term." With this viewpoint, Xuetong develops a moralist-realist theory that shifts the paradigm on international politics in conducting foreign policy based on morality.
According to Xuetong, the precondition of a rising state is to displace a leading state. Make no mistake, the rise of nations is still a zero-sum game, and the rise of one nation must be at the expense of another. To do this, the rising state must possess an...