Contributions were received from Claudia Astarita, Riccardo Cursi, Misbah Hyder, Nicole Koenig, Marta Palombo and Chantal Scaccabarozzi.
On China / Henry Kissinger. - London : Allen Lane, 2011. - xviii, 586 p.,  p. di tav. : ill. - ISBN 978-1-846-14346-5
Few people can boast a knowledge of the relationship between China and the Western world as thorough as Henry Kissinger's. National Security Advisor and, later, Secretary of State during the Nixon administration, he conceived the policy of rapprochement between the United States and China during the 1970s. Therefore, On China, his latest book, is rooted not just in academic studies, but also in his personal experience. The work deals with the historical and cultural roots of the Chinese approach to foreign policy and tries to explain the differences between it and the foreign policy approach of the United States.
A common element is, according to Kissinger, the concept of exceptionalism. Both countries perceive themselves as different from the others. America tends to believe in its manifest destiny: it has a special role in the international system and a messianic imperative to spread its values around the world. Imperial China, on the other hand, tends to grade "all other states as various levels of tributaries based on their approximation to Chinese cultural and political forms".
But the two have different strategic cultures, which Kissinger explains with a metaphor. American strategy, and Western strategy in general, based on Clausewitz' thought, is similar to a chess game. The aim is total victory: the enemy's king must be forced into a position from which he cannot move without being destroyed. Chinese strategists, on the other hand, tend to avoid direct clashes and prefer to gain relative advantage. The champion of Chinese strategic thought is Sun Tzu, whose main teaching was that the outstanding general is one who wins without even fighting the battle. Their traditional game, wei qi, is based on encirclement and reflects this preference for indirect strategy.
Communist leader Mao Zedong, Kissinger claims, was a product of this cultural background. While his domestic policy was based on the communist idea of permanent revolution, in international affairs, the father of the People's Republic of China opted for a cautious and realist approach. As Kissinger writes, "in pursuit of this foreign policy agenda, Mao owed more to Sun Tzu than to Lenin".
The historical event to which Kissinger dedicates the most attention is the policy of rapprochement between China and the United States - a political manoeuvre of which he was the main architect. The book illustrates the strategic objectives of both actors which made such a strange partnership feasible. The narration is enriched with details of the meetings between Kissinger and the Chinese leaders.
As for the future of this relationship, while being a classical realist, Kissinger rejects the idea of an inevitable conflict between China and the United States due to the former's rise and the latter's relative decline. Both have internal problems to deal with, Kissinger argues, and the destructive potential of nuclear weapons makes a military clash less likely. Also, competition for geopolitical hegemony on the Asian continent would be obstructed by other regional powers who need both Beijing and Washington. In that light, cooperation is in the interest of both sides and Kissinger concludes with a wise counsel for Chinese and American policymakers alike: the creation of a Pacific community modelled on the Atlantic one. (Riccardo Cursi, also in Italian)
The impact of China's 1989 Tiananmen massacre / edited by Jean-Philippe Béja. - London and New York : Routledge, 2011. - xii, 264 p. : ill. - (China policy series ; 17). - ISBN 978-0-415-57872-1 ; 978-0-203-84260-7 (ebk)
When speaking about China and the events of 4 June 1989 , it is usually difficult to understand why a government that is so proud of its economic and diplomatic achievements is so worried about something that took place more than 20 years ago. Aware that the impact of this massacre can be felt in all fields of activity - from the strategy of the democracy movement to economic policy, from intellectual creation to diplomacy - and that no matter how much the Beijing government attempts to erase this event from people's memory it keeps on influencing life today, this book assesses the impact of the democracy movement on China's political, social and economic development.
The question of memory, however, is complex and has to be approached from different points of view: that of the perpetrators, of the victims and of the bystanders. The book starts by explaining why, once the Party leaders had committed the massacre, they and their successors decided to obliterate it from memory. History has been rewritten to erase any reference to the democracy movement. The refusal to face the reality of the past - today the majority of Chinese young people know nothing about the massacre - has had a tremendous cost in terms of respect of human rights and has delayed the democratisation of the regime. The book highlights that since 1989 much more emphasis has been placed on 'patriotic education'.
Since 1989, only the pro-democracy forces, even though they were the main victims of the massacre, have tried to keep the movement alive by changing strategies and approaches in accordance with the circumstances. The book gives some space to analysis of the intellectual debate after the massacre and the recent rise of 'defence of rights movements', that is, "clusters of collective actions, mostly spontaneous, voluntarily participatory, non-violent, and independent of the government, aimed at defending an array of variously endowed or bestowed rights, using the constitution, the law, civil disobedience tactics, and the internet". Finally, it touches upon the perspective of those citizens who were influenced by the 1989 democracy movement, but too young to participate in it. It is highlighted that, although they admire their predecessors, they do not refrain from criticizing their abstract demands for "freedom and democracy", and prefer to fight for the concrete rights of citizens.
The refusal both to limit the power of the police and to allow for some independence of the judiciary shows that the 4 June massacre reinforced the Communist Party's determination to prevent the emergence of judicial independence in the same way as it restricted the room for manoeuvre of the pro-democracy forces. However, the book recognises that the impact of the massacre has not been limited to the judicial and political spheres, but has also influenced the Chinese economy and international relations.
The 1989 political crisis is acknowledged as being the catalyst for a shift in the overall pattern of the Chinese economic transition. While giving legitimacy to a model of concentrated power, on the one hand it led to a regime more capable of mobilising resources for economic development and, on the other it resolved the discussion about ownership and hierarchy in a way that strengthened the alliance between politics and business.
Finally, the way in which China emerged from the isolation that Western countries imposed on it in the wake of the massacre is reviewed, pointing out that it was the end of the Soviet Union and Deng Xiaoping's turn towards capitalism that revolutionized the situation.
In sum, this book makes a commendable effort not only to explain the atmosphere of 1989 and the Chinese Communist Party's prerogatives at the time, but also to explore in depth the way in which the memory of the massacre as well as its obliteration impact on contemporary Chinese society, politics and economy. (Claudia Astarita)
EU foreign policy and post-Soviet conflicts : stealth intervention / Nicu Popescu. - London and New York : Routledge, 2011. - xvi, 157 p. - (Routledge advances in European politics). - ISBN 978-0-415-58720-4 ; 978-0-203-83478-7 (ebk)
In this book, Nicu Popescu, Senior Research Fellow at ECFR and major expert in the Eastern European Neighbourhood, investigates the EU approach towards the conflicts that emerged in the nineties in some former Soviet republics, namely Transnistria, Abkazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno Karabakh. The publication reveals that in those areas, the EU has conducted a sort of "stealth intervention". This raises some interesting questions to which the author tries to find an answer: what mechanisms occasionally restrain the EU in conflict management? What are its real political priorities? Can the Council's political reluctance act as a brake on other EU external actions?
Although these frozen conflicts have occasionally come into the spotlight of the international media, public attention has not always corresponded or led to the EU's Council direct intervention in those crises. This book is therefore particularly relevant as an attempt to understand the reasons underlying EU foreign policy choices in those areas.
From a methodological point of view, the author uses an innovative theoretical framework that combines institutional and intergovernmental elements. The cross-examination of facts with interviews with select stakeholders reinforces its credibility.
The structure of the book is linear. The first chapter offers an overview of the theories, concepts, case studies and methodology adopted; the second explains EU conflict management and settlement mainly prior to Lisbon Treaty. The book then works through the chronicles of the facts of each case; this is, without doubt, the most effective feature of Popescu's work. Going through historical events, the author explains the contradictions between the Council's activity as an intergovernmental institution and that of the Commission, the EU's executive body, as supragovernmental one. Popescu refers to their activities as dealing with high politics and low politics, respectively. The book suggests that the Council's policymaking is strongly influenced by external actors and factors, such as Russia and economic issues like energy dependence. These elements play a major role in decision-making, with some member states taking them into account while others prefer to overlook them and demand stronger EU action. Notwithstanding the single national stances, disagreement at the Council level decreases the possibility of concrete decision-making in crisis management.
The Commission is acutely aware of these delicate balances, however, and has launched its own strategy. Popescu defines the Commission's policy towards these conflicts as based on a "dosage approach" with spillover effects. The underlying idea is to bypass the political discussions of the Council initiatives by initially keeping a low profile and gradually extending the scope of its mandate over time.
All in all, Popescu's theory of low and high politics is interesting and accessible even to the non-expert reader. Its main strength is its clear explanation of the interplay between the Council and the Commission, as well as the final outcomes in foreign policy. The theory sustained is capable of enlightening pathological situations "where issues can become politicized or depolicized". Popescu gives a direct example of tension between the Council and the Commission: in 2006, an OSCE mission in Moldova, led by Russia, was due to expire, so the Commission's Special Representative to Moldova, Adriaan Jacobovits de Szeged, tried to lobby stakeholders to suggest a joint EU-Russia operation. Jacobovits was firmly opposed by some member states and, in the end, the High Representative was forced to resign.
The book draws attention to the EU's and member states' hidden agendas, putting their consistency and coherence with the EU's overall external action into question. It should be noticed, however, that with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty and the setting up of the European External Action Service, Popescu's theoretical framework may have to be adapted. (Chantal Scaccabarozzi)
Making EU foreign policy : national preferences, European norms and common policies / edited by Daniel C. Thomas. - Basingstoke and New York : Palgrave MacMillan, 2011. - xi, 240 p. - (Palgrave studies in international relations studies). - ISBN 978-0-230-28072-4
'Lowest common denominator politics' has become an established term in day-today rhetoric on European foreign policy (EFP). It tends to appear whenever diverging member state preferences stand in the way of substantial policy output. This book goes beyond this rhetoric and investigates how and under what circumstances the EU member states do manage to agree on substantial common external policies. Based on a special issue of International Politics (July 2009), the volume is composed of contributions by ten renowned scholars of EU governance, foreign policy and international relations from across the EU and the United States.
The theoretical starting point of the volume is normative institutionalism (chap. 2). Based on the assumption that procedural and substantive EU norms influence the behaviour of the member states, Daniel Thomas presents two hypotheses: 1) The "normative entrapment hypothesis" posits that once member states have committed themselves to a set of EU norms, their future behaviour is constrained by those, regardless of their individual policy preferences. 2) The "cooperative bargaining hypothesis" suggests that the member states' growing identification with the EU and procedural norms like the consensus rule and the consultation reflex lead to cooperative rather than competitive negotiation tactics within the EU institutions. The theory "expects the EU to adopt common foreign policies mid-way on the range of member state preferences and/or consistent with preexisting commitments" (5). In order to test the theory's relative explanatory power, the hypotheses are contrasted with alternative explanations from the intergovernmentalist and constructivist camps.
These theoretical assertions are tested throughout 14 case studies spanning a broad range of policy areas including diplomatic and security issues, enlargement, trade, development and environmental protection (chapters 3-9). In chapter 10, Frank Schimmelfennig and Daniel Thomas review and compare the empirical findings. They conclude that the explanatory power of normative institutionalism is "generally (though not universally) superior to that of competing theories" (178). They find that overcoming disagreement by way of rhetorical entrapment or cooperative bargaining is most likely when there is a determinate norm, a relevant policy commitment or precedent, high public attention, and if negotiations take place in institutionalised EU channels (187).
The volume closes with three critical commentaries discussing theoretical and methodological shortcomings (chapters 11-13). Thomas Risse, Anand Menon and Michael Smith refute the authors' conclusion that normative institutionalism "has proven to be a robust theory of EU decision-making" (178). They question its added value, arguing that it remains somewhat stuck between sociological and rational choice institutionalism (196). Smith criticises the vague operationalisation of the research variables, calling for a "clearer and more robust typology of EFP norms" (230) and further categorisation of the dependent variable, that is, "EFP outputs", in terms of corresponding "commitment and resource costs" (221). The authors identify several relevant "omitted" variables including endogenous factors like power, leadership, decision-making rules, or changes in government, and exogenous factors like the influence of major actors such as the US or Russia. Menon and Smith point towards a bias in case selection since cases of non-decision or non-agreement (206-7) and/or those where material (not normative) objectives might prevail (223) were left out of the analysis. The same authors state that more detailed information on the negotiation process and member states' preferences would be needed to distinguish cooperative from competitive bargaining and to discard the null hypothesis, namely "that the EU itself plays little or no role in bringing about the reconciliation of member state negotiating positions" (208).
This volume offers interesting insight into the dynamics of EU foreign policymaking and detailed information regarding some of the most contested EU foreign policy decisions. The excellent critical commentaries reflect the difficulties in finding a unified theory for EFP, a field populated by a multitude of partly competing norms, institutions, policies and decision-making procedures. While this volume is arguably not a 'breakthrough' for normative institutionalism, it is a useful and original contribution to the theoretical debate, opening up avenues for further research. It is thus valuable to any scholar interested in dealing with the empirical and theoretical challenges of studying EU external action. (Nicole Koenig)
Fifty years of EU-Turkey relations : a Sisyphean story / edited by Armagan Emre Çakir. - London and New York : Routledge, 2011. - xviii, 186 p. - (Routledge advances in European politics ; 69). - ISBN 978-0-415-57963-6 ; 978-0-203-83642-2 (ebk)
The chronicle of Turkey's accession to the EU, which began fifty years ago, is an ongoing, ostensibly Sisyphean story. Regardless of how far the process has advanced, the boulder rolls back down the hill. This is the longest accession process the EU has ever had, and no end is in sight. The crux of the relationship between the EU and Turkey can be defined in one term: delay. This book brilliantly tells the tale of this "long stay in the waiting room", characterised by the superfluous ups and downs of the last fifty years. Edited by Armagan Emre Çakir, the various chapters provide a historical analysis of the prominent aspects of these fifty years.
In order for the reader to truly comprehend the dynamic, the authors take on the challenge of balancing history with contemporary issues. To this end, the separation into dimensions gives the subject the organisation it requires. The different 'dimensions' that each chapter focuses upon include the political, economic, security, elite opinion, public opinion, identity and ethical.
Çakir introduces the relationship's contentions with "sometimes it was Turkey that dragged its feet, or actually asked for extensions, and sometimes it was the Union or some of the Member States that insisted on procrastination". The obstacles that have been strewn along the path of EU-Turkey relations could have been and can still be avoided. Each chapter focuses on one level in which the two parties can overcome a hurdle. For C¸ akir, the two parties must ignore those opposing the relationship in order to achieve solid results. Nas argues that Turkey must acknowledge and embrace the economic benefits it has already received during its accession transformation; as portrayed by Bilgin, the security 'threat' Turkey seemingly poses for the EU is in no way ideal for a relationship already on thin ice; uninterested and uncompromising elites are only hindering the process, according to Tocci; Canan-Sokullu and Kentmen give the reader a statistical analysis of the public opinions within Europe; Rumford and Turunc emphasize the "post-westernization" element and the progression of Turkey's transformation; and lastly, the controversial questions of international ethics within the relationship are analysed by Diez.
The book is accessible to people with all levels of knowledge about Turkish politics. Even to a new student to the subject, the book provides a gateway to new insights. Particularly, Rumford and Turunc's chapter on Turkey's "post-westernization" is extremely compelling. The Turkish identity struggle draws one into the subject and the authors' claim that "East and West are no longer solid reference points or identity markers" is an entirely novel concept. The conventional wisdom of the cleavage within Turkish dynamism has shaped the outlook of many and is rightfully challenged and altered by this chapter. On the other hand, Canan-Sokullu and Kentmen's chapter on public opinion may be a bit too complex and logistical for those who do not understand the intricacies of statistics, while valuable for those who do. Overall, this compilation of several scholars' outlooks on a complex, 'hot' topic of contemporary European and global politics is certainly well worth any student's or scholar's time. (Misbah Hyder, also in Italian)
Italy and the European Union / Federiga Bindi. - Rome : Scuola superiore della Pubblica amministrazione; Washington : Brookings Institution Press, c2011. - ix, 246 p. - ISBN 978-0-8157-0496-6
Italy is one of the founding members of the European Union and one of the most important contributors to the process of European integration. Notwithstanding this, it has never taken a very active part in the process of EU policymaking and negotiations. Bindi's book analyses this aspect of EU-Italian relations, showing that there is a lack of effectiveness on Italy's part.
The book is the result of fifteen years of work and research, including interviews with approximately 150 people. It is well structured and homogeneous. Bindi presents a thorough analysis of the relationship between Italy and the EU. She manages to explain the topic very clearly, even for those not familiar with the Italian political system. At the same time, it never gets boring for those who are already acquainted with it. Bindi considers the relations between Italy's domestic politics and its position in the European Union from a number of different perspectives: the political attitude towards European institutions; the legislative rules that shape the relationship; the Italian strategies of negotiation. The central argument is that, although Italy could be a leading country in the EU policymaking and negotiations process, its incomplete "Europeanization" and some characteristics of its domestic politics undermine its influence, and consequently the successful representation of its interests.
According to the author, domestic institutional and political structures determine the capacity of a state to act at the European level. There are many factors to be considered, such as the nature of the political system, the aims of the government and its political style, the system for coordinating with European policy. According to Bindi, Italy lacks not only a strong strategy, but also definite objectives and credible actors. With the end of the Cold War, Italy lost its international importance, and many years passed before its foreign policy adapted to it. Bindi also points to the weaknesses of Italian foreign policy, often based on personal relations and focused mainly on promoting Italy and its products abroad. European policy has never been considered a central point. Even when Romano Prodi was at the head of the European Commission, no particular support was shown in Italy for him or for the Union. On the contrary, Italian politicians sometimes use the EU as a scapegoat for justifying unpopular measures. In fact, Italian politicians are very seldom concerned with issues that are not national, even regional.
Bindi argues that this is why Italy continues to be marginal in EU decisionmaking. Although some improvements have actually been made in coordinating between the Italian Parliament and the EU, there are still many points to work on, also on the legislative side. Italy cannot continue with such a passive attitude, hoping that its membership in the EU per se will bring about positive changes in the country. It should focus, rather, on the domestic changes that can help the nation gain more importance and influence at the European level.
Bindi's analysis is very realistic and to the point. Domestic politics in Italy is considered completely detached from European politics, as if they were two parallel worlds. European politics, in particular, is considered so distinct that it is assumed that it does not have any influence at all on national politics. Moreover, Italy plays a passive role in the EU. It is part of it, and feels a part of it, yet makes little effort to take advantage of this position and to participate actively in EU politics. As the author rightly states, this is also due to the fact that politics in Italy is a matter of the juxtapositioning of different factions. Nevertheless, it might be time to become a bit more far-sighted. (Marta Palombo, also in Italian)