14 May 2010

Jeremy Black, University of Exeter, Reviews China Goes to Sea

Jeremy Black, “The Pursuit of Maritime Transformation”; review of Andrew S. Erickson, Lyle J. Goldstein, and Carnes Lord, eds., China Goes to Sea: Maritime Transformation in Comparative Historical Perspective (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, July 2009); Naval War College Review, Vol. 63, No. 3 (Summer 2010), pp. 156-57.

The third book in the Naval Institute Press’s Studies in Chinese Maritime Development series is a collection of essays and case studies that is important not only for those working in naval studies and for sinologists, but also for scholars concerned with the idea of strategic culture and its application.

Following an introduction by Erickson and Goldstein, the book is organized into four parts: the premodern era (Persia, Sparta, Rome, and the Ottoman Empire); the modern era (France, Russia, imperial Germany, and Soviet Russia); Chinese maritime transformations (Ming and Qing dynasties, the Cold War); and China in comparative perspective, with essays on contemporary Chinese shipbuilding prowess, China’s navy today as it looks toward blue water, and the Chinese study of the rise of great powers.

The contributors are such renowned scholars as Barry Strauss, Arthur Eckstein, James Pritchard, Holger Herwig, and Bruce Elleman. As stated in the book’s introduction, a close reading of the case studies reveals distinct differences between China and other powers that have pursued maritime transformation. Erickson and Goldstein note that Beijing has an impressive commercial maritime dynamism and is uncovering a robust historical maritime tradition. China understands that stable relationships with its continental neighbors are a prerequisite for the growth of maritime power. The issue of Taiwan and the strategic significance of China’s maritime trade routes mean there is no real comparison with the Kremlin’s pursuit of naval power. …