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K.N. Ramachandran

By Allen S. Whiting
Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press, 1975, 299, 15.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 2 April - June 1976

The People's Republic of China’s deep concern for its security—a concern inherited from the Manchus, who first became aware of the vulnerability of the Middle Kingdom when the expansionist West gained a foothold on the shores of Cathay in early 19th century—had been, and continues to be, a constant and critical factor shaping China’s interaction with the outside world. In other words, China’s security concern, which has almost become an obsession, was the logical outcome of the Communist understanding of the historical experience of modern China in its encounter with the West. The concern with security, for instance, was at the heart of the Sino-Soviet dispute, although the ideological focus of the quarrel made it appear as if it was a holy war over how best to implement the principles enshrined in the scriptures of Marxism-Leninism. In the book under review, Professor Allen S. Whiting, one of the high-priests of Chinese studies in the United States, has constructed a model of Chinese calculus of deterrence in the context of China’s threat-perceptions. He examines China’s approach towards the Sino-Indian conflict (1962) and China’s response towards the US escalation of war in Indo-China during the mid-sixties. The book provides ample evidence of his talents both as a professor and an intelligence analyst. He was with the US State Department during the mid-sixties as Director of the Office of Research and Analysis, Far East, and had good access to the CIA and the NSA. Whiting speaks of the Chinese calculus of deterrence ‘as an attempt to infer what general strategy underlies persistent patterns of behaviour aimed at persuading a perceived opponent that costs of his continuing conflictual activity will eventually prove unacceptable to him because of the Chinese response.’ In simple terms, it is an amalgam of Chinese strategies and tactics in the political and military sphere aimed at dissuading an adversary from pursuing an unprofitable course. The first part of the study discusses the calculus of deterrence as it operated during the Sino-Indian crisis of 1961-62. It may, however, be noted that it is not a study of the Sino-Indian border question. It focuses attention on Chinese decision-making within the over-all threat perceptions of Peking. The threat perceived from Taiwan-US alliance, the crisis that was brewing in Sinkiang, where the Soviet Union was encouraging restive Chinese minorities, the failure of the Great Leap Forward, the ...

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