16 April 2016

Chinese Economic Statecraft: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control

Great scholarship, intriguing and timely read!

William J. Norris, Chinese Economic Statecraft: Commercial Actors, Grand Strategy, and State Control (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016).

In Chinese Economic Statecraft, William J. Norris introduces an innovative theory that pinpoints how states employ economic tools of national power to pursue their strategic objectives. Norris shows what Chinese economic statecraft is, how it works, and why it is more or less effective. Norris provides an accessible tool kit to help us better understand important economic developments in the People’s Republic of China. He links domestic Chinese political economy with the international ramifications of China’s economic power as a tool for realizing China’s strategic foreign policy interests. He presents a novel approach to studying economic statecraft that calls attention to the central challenge of how the state is (or is not) able to control and direct the behavior of economic actors.

Norris identifies key causes of Chinese state control through tightly structured, substate and crossnational comparisons of business-government relations. These cases range across three important arenas of China’s grand strategy that prominently feature a strategic role for economics: China’s efforts to secure access to vital raw materials located abroad, Mainland relations toward Taiwan, and China’s sovereign wealth funds. Norris spent more than two years conducting field research in China and Taiwan during which he interviewed current and former government officials, academics, bankers, journalists, advisors, lawyers, and businesspeople. The ideas in this book are applicable beyond China and help us to understand how states exercise international economic power in the twenty-first century.


1. What Is Economic Statecraft?  
2. The Challenge of State Control  
3. Economics and China’s Grand Strategy 
4. “Going Out” and China’s Search for Energy Security  
5. Rio Tinto and the (In)visible Hand of the State  

6. Coercive Leverage across the Taiwan Strait  
7. Interest Transformation across the Taiwan Strait  

8. State Administration of Foreign Exchange  
9. What Right Looks Like  
10. The China Investment Corporation  

Concluding Implications  


Chinese Economic Statecraft is a timely, compelling, first-rate piece of scholarship. William J. Norris’s argument, which will be widely read and discussed among political scientists, economists, and scholars of Asian studies, is presented in a way that will also engage policy-oriented observers and laypeople interested in the book primarily for its insights into the factors shaping China’s economic behavior.”

—Thomas G. Moore, University of Cincinnati, author of China in the World Market: Chinese Industry and International Sources of Reform in the Post-Mao Era

“William J. Norris significantly advances our understanding of economic statecraft as well as grand strategy. He offers a compelling theoretical framework to explain the successes and failures of the Chinese state as it has struggled to ensure that the country’s newfound economic heft serves the national interest. To demonstrate the usefulness of his argument, Norris carefully explores an impressive selection of the most important recent Chinese attempts to exercise economic power for strategic ends. This is timely scholarship at its best.”

—Avery Goldstein, David M. Knott Professor of Global Politics and International Relations and Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, University of Pennsylvania

“The subject of economic statecraft is a critical but understudied dynamic of international relations/international economic relations, so Chinese Economic Statecraft is very timely and addresses a gaping hole in the academic and policy literature. China is not shy in using its growing economic clout for national goals, and this book provides ample evidence of this. Moreover, William J. Norris’s analytical approach is novel and correct in focusing on the domestic dynamics of state control as the key driver.”

—Tai Ming Cheung, University of California, San Diego