Trading With The Enemy

Trading With The Enemy

International relations, as all research students attuned to the North American tradition are made aware, can only make sense when the causality, and regression, can be explained on the basis of the relationship between independent variable and dependent variable.

But the framing of the research in such a simplified form, though useful, predispose the researchers to a causal explanation that is devoid of the necessary nuance, internal bureaucratic politics, even the nestled interest that emerges from the complex policy processes.

Hugo Meijer, an emerging political scientist in Sciences Po, certainly a name whom many will hear in leading journals on export controls and Sino US relations for years to come, adopted the "process variable" approach expounded by Glenn Snyder, himself a major political analyst to contend with. In "process variable," the independent variable and dependent variable i.e. the differences in the policy outcome of the export control policy, is still maintained. What is added to the whole "flow" is the feedback mechanism which, at every stage, allows Hugo Meijer to explain the push back or log-rolling in different bureaucratic agencies, such as Congress, State Department, Pentagon and the likes, even as the President or his National Security Council was agreeable to relaxing the controls on the export of various technologies to China.

The very beauty, indeed, genius, of this book, lies in the adoption of a powerful explanatory scheme that allows all the facts, events, and developments in the Sino US relationships to come forth. But Hugo Meijer was careful to quote the necessary big names in political science, to justify the use of Glenn Synder's approach, before he settled on using it. Thus he explained why the likes of Andrew Moravscik, Helen Milner, James Rosenau, and Robert Putnam, had at different stages of their academic careers, expressed their unhappiness with static nature of most rationalist theories, since each inter-section in politics, either at domestic or international level, was constantly subjected to 'construction' and 'reconstruction'; even 'manipulation'.

Once the framework was ready, Hugo Meijer could confidently interview close to 200 policy makers in US and China, to tease out the fears and insecurities that underline the whole basis of this bilateral relationship, which increasingly was not driven by money only, but each other's technical skill sets, as well as hopes and aspirations of their countries' respective future. And, the book covered terrain like super computers, high performance information technology, all of which can affect the simulation of nuclear blasts, just as other technological abilities can tip the balance in the delicate bilateral relationship.

With constraints, this review cannot go deeper into the book than what the preface and first chapter explained. But the value of this book is obvious. Rather than China and US each going unilaterally at it on their fragile relationship, caught as they are like "Tangled Titans" as David Shambaugh was quoted to have described it, there is a potential third party that is now endowed with the foresight and ability to understand the highly pressurized nature of the Sino US relations.

France can go beyond the narrative and commentary of Francoise Godement, Jean Pierre Lehman, even the late Raymond Aron, to tell the world the intricate, though dangerous nature, of the Sino US relations in Asia, especially on space, cyber and maritime technology. This new scholar is Hugo Meijer, who will give American specialists like Richard Culpitt and Bert Chapman, a run for their money.  In Asia, Hugo Meijer was wise to consult Professor Tai Ming Cheung, arguably one of the earliest writers on Asian military affairs in the now defunct Far East Eastern Economic Review. All-in-all, this is a superb book that reeks with marvelous scholarship. Every footnote and detail is carefully annotated. It will also challenge the work of Evan Feigenbaum, now at the Paulson Institute of World Affairs in Chicago. For the last twenty years, Evan Feigenbaum has climbed up the ladder in the State Department and Harvard University to be one of the leader commentators on China. Evan even speaks fluent Chinese too. Hugo Meijer has declared his arrival too with this world class book.