Book Review: Circles of Strategy, Circuits of Risk: Rudd's Guide to Xi's China

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    Former leaders rarely hit the mark when writing books proclaiming expertise and sage advice on world affairs. In his book The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the U.S. and Xi Jinping's China, Kevin Rudd thankfully breaks that rule. This book is largely what the title implies—an insightful overview on China's strategic goals, the danger of conflict with the United States, and ideas to reduce those risks. That makes this book particularly refreshing for what it is not. As a former prime minister and foreign minister, and still a close confidante of many international leaders, Rudd could easily have foregrounded his own experience, accomplishments, frustrations, and conversations. As an Australian, he could have emphasized the agency of third countries, such as his own, in shaping regional security or supposedly mediating great-power differences. As a China expert—which he unquestionably is—he could have articulated Beijing's policy imperatives in ways that feigned clarity while actually signifying that nonspecialists could never hope to divine the mysteries of Chinese statecraft. And in stressing the hazards of war between the United States and China, he could have wallowed in sanctimony, blame, and doom. Mercifully, these temptations have been resisted. Instead, this book is genuinely useful, accessible, and timely, and it deserves to be widely read by policymakers, journalists, students, businesspeople, and concerned citizens alike. The style and format suggest many years of thinking behind a compressed burst of writing. This is, therefore, not an academic tome—the text does not contain a single footnote or reference—but it should not be skimmed through as simply a long piece of opinion or journalism. The Avoidable War is also highly readable. As a political leader, Rudd's reputation included a tendency to the technocratic. This makes it doubly refreshing that the style of this book is largely jargon-free, engaging, and to the point.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)244-246
    JournalAsia Policy
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

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