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Ratner, E (2010) The Emerging Security Threats Reshaping China’s Rise, The Washington Quarterly, 34:1, pp29-44.

Underlying this piece is a useful argument about the dangers incurred in adopting a comfortable and familiar cognitive framework for assessing threats, in this case, that posed by China. That China’s behaviour is an emergent outcome of the interplay of many heterogenous actors reflects the complex adaptive nature of China’s decision-making systems. The implications of such system structure is that of itself it makes likely outcomes more unpredictable, but also, potentially, overall behaviour more stable, in that a high degree of interconnectedness is more likely to modify rash behaviour. (That’s not a judgement about whether such stable or such rash–or innovative–behaviour is good or bad.) Breaking down the problem from a single search for a monolithic grand strategic intent into a series of individual problem sets, as the article implies–and only then looking not for a single intent, but an emergent outcome–may provide better insight into China’s behaviour.

China’s pollution problem: it could ‘put an abrupt end to China’s economic growth’ and there’s the minor matter of causing ‘mortal havoc in societies and ecosystems throughout the world.’ (Mother Jones)

Programmable matter via DARPA (Danger Room, Wired)

The hollowing out of families and the middle class in American cities, resulting in ‘places that, despite celebrating diversity, actually could end up as hip, dense versions of the most constipated suburb imaginable.’  (The American)

Throwing at the batter‘–a baseball expression; I suppose the equivalent would be a bodyline ball–and its expression in the workplace (Pink Slip) 

12 of the world’s most fascinating tunnel networks (OOBjects, via BLDGBLOG)

A useful piece by David Shambaugh considers the direction of US-China relations under the Obama Administration.  Key points:

  • under Bush, the US had a dualistic approach: a China encouraged to be a responsible stakeholder, and a China to be hedged against.  The latter was pushed in particular by a ‘strong contingent’ within the Pentagon, and through appropriations, bureaucracy and programs, retains a significant amount of momentum.  
  • Obama’s policy thus far has been one generally of continuity.  But it emphasises strongly partnership with China, and downplays considerably the hedging strategy.  
  • The Administration is looking to ‘broaden the strategic partnership’ between the United States and China, with talk of a trilateral US-Japan-China dialogue and speculation of a regarding a number of initiatives to deepen the relationship, resolve outstanding issues and avoid conflict.


Shambaugh, D. (2009). Early Prospects of the Obama Administration’s Strategic Agenda with China. E-Notes, Foreign Policy Research Institute.

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