Jamie Gaskarth. China, India and the Future of International Society. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. 192 pp. $120.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-78348-259-7; $39.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-78348-260-3.
Reviewed by Anja Lutz
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (February, 2016)
J. Gaskarth (ed.): China, India and the Future
Asia is rising. Especially India and China are expected to shape the economy and power relations of the proclaimed 21st Asian Century. But, as editor Jamie Gaskarth states at the very beginning of the volume ‘China, India and the Future of International Society’, the implications that the growing material power of China and India might have on the promotion of global norms are still under-researched and rarely discussed (p. 2). While material factors are undebatable parts of power transition, they cannot provide the full picture, Gaskarth argues. By understanding how the growing hard power of India and China translates into their soft power capacities, and how this process will influence the prevailing global norms, consequences of power transitions can be painted in a clearer way.
This edited volume aims to close this gap and to start a debate on how the rise of China and India will impact international society. In an ‘English School’-understanding based on European experiences, states in the international society have a shared interest in maintaining a certain global order based on common norms and values. Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society. A Study of Order in World Politics, New York 1977. In the past years, some ‘English School’-scholars have already sporadically written on the role of Asian nations in international society. See for example: Shogo Suzuki, Japan’s Socialization into Janus-Faced European International Society, in: European Journal of International Relations 11 (2005), pp. 137-164; Barry Buzan, China in International Society. Is ‘Peaceful Rise’ Possible?, in: Chinese Journal of International Politics 3 (2010) 1, pp. 5-36; Ian Clark, China and the United States. A Succession of Hegemonies?, in: International Affairs 87 (2011) 1, pp. 13-28. This book is novel as it is for the first time extensively looking at and comparing China and India. In a well-structured manner, the seven articles aim to explore the questions how both states fit into the system of prevailing global norms, which norms they might promote or reject, and how these norms are generated and promoted.
All articles take a historical perspective on different norms that shape international society focussing on sovereignty and responsibility in general. The individual contributions then look into country-specific principles. On a regional level, David Kerr searches for a normative power or unifying story for Asia – and concludes that there is nothing like pan-Asian norms (p. 124). Chris Brown juxtaposes the European notion of sovereignty as responsibility with the Chinese and Indian notion of sovereignty as ’untrammelled autonomy’ (p. 142).
Especially the first two contributions by Happymon Jacob and Chen Yudan provide interesting new insights into the understanding of sovereignty, a core norm in international society. In both India and China, sovereignty is still ‘work in progress’ and closely connected to the security situation. For India, Jacob concludes that ‘India is fundamentally a normative actor’ (p. 37) and spells out five factors that shape the current view on sovereignty. In his interpretation, India has a non-territorial, ideational understanding of the term, based on the principle of self-sufficiency in economic and foreign affairs predominant for a long period of time after independence. Even though India has opened up, this non-territorial approach can still be seen in its relations with the diaspora. Still, India has not always been acting coherently internally and externally, so even when emphasising the principle of non-interference and openly opposing the responsibility to protect (R2P), India at times actively interferes in internal affairs of neighbouring states. Thirdly, the sense of security and confidence in itself as well as others is connected to the understanding of sovereignty. An example is the global nuclear order: now that India is increasingly accepted as a nuclear power, it is also more open to international involvement in its nuclear policy. Jacob makes a similar argument on the expectations of other states: when India is expected to play a more important role in international society, it is also more interested in shaping global norms. Lastly, the end of the Cold War changed India’s political and economic policies, especially in the region - a point unfortunately dealt with very briefly.
Yudan takes a historical perspective on China’s notions of sovereignty. He describes how the European imposition of the concept of sovereignty was a humiliating experience still infringed in the collective memory of the Chinese. Similar to India, traditional understandings of sovereignty did not correspond to the Western understanding of it, which is still important today. Sovereignty is understood in terms of power and, very importantly, in terms of territorial integrity, and in extended in recent year to ‘sovereignties of jurisdiction, economic rights, and authority […] in China’s external affairs’ (p. 47), which, at least in rhetoric, it is unwilling to compromise on.
All articles are well written and very informative especially on historical developments and they successfully track the reasons for China’s and Indian’s behaviour based on their collective memory. But most authors miss the opportunity to analyse current developments under the new leadership in both countries, which is shortly mentioned in the introduction but unfortunately not reiterated more extensively in the individual contributions, with the exception of Ian Hall’s contribution on India’s normative power (pp. 101-103).
Another weak spot is a missing vision of how new potential norms – once identified – could be promoted. While David Armstrong identifies China’s soft power cultural norm promotion through the establishment of Confucius Institutes around the globe as insufficient to promote an alternative model to the dominant Western cultural and economic model (p. 79), there is no suggestion for an alternative way offered. The authors also do not seem to consider climate change governance and norms a relevant case study for norm contestation within the international society. This is surprising, as both India and China are crucial partners to be integrated in the efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, but especially India is pushing for a different way.
In sum, this volume is highly insightful for both experts on Asia who want a better understanding of how history shapes current politics and how concepts shaped in the West are understood and interpreted by India and China. It also helps scholars and students less familiar with the particularities of Asia to broaden the horizon of the often Eurocentric limits of the English School and see ‘what else is there’. This volume will hopefully be a trendsetter for more research and exchange on the topic.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/.
Anja Lutz. Review of Gaskarth, Jamie, China, India and the Future of International Society.
H-Soz-u-Kult, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2016 by H-Net, Clio-online, and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact H-SOZ-U-KULT@H-NET.MSU.EDU.