Running the race of the century
July-September 2015
By: Thomas E Kellogg

  The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower
By Michael Pillsbury
(Henry Holt and Company, 2015, 336 pp)

Reviewed by
Thomas E Kellogg

Michael Pillsbury has some regrets. During his five decades as a China watcher, in posts at the RAND Corporation, the US Defense Department and on various congressional committees, Pillsbury consistently urged the US government to engage with China. In the 1970s, he was among the many experts who urged normalization of relations; in the 1980s, while at the Defense Department, he worked directly with Chinese military and intelligence officials on joint programs to undermine the Soviet Union, including efforts to arm anti-Soviet fighters in Afghanistan.

Consistently throughout his career, Pillsbury believed that US engagement with China would both help to forge a productive working relationship and bolster moderate reformist voices within the Chinese political system.

The end result of America’s efforts, Pillsbury believed, would be that China would become “a democratic and peaceful power without ambitions of regional or even global dominance,” and a strong and productive US-China relationship, one that transcended any differences of history, culture or politics.

It was only in the early 2000s, after decades spent as a leading voice in favor of engagement with China, that Pillsbury began to have doubts. Over time, he came to believe that the Chinese hawks – military officials, nationalist academics and deeply paranoid Communist Party officials – with whom he had been dealing for decades were not a small minority. Instead, they were driving the bus. “After decades of studying China closely, I am convinced that these hard-line views are not fringe,” Pillsbury writes in his book. Instead, such views are “very much in the mainstream of Chinese geostrategic thought.”

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