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Quest for Status: Chinese and Russian Foreign Policy, Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko

Reviewed by Steven Ward

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Deborah Welch Larson and Alexei Shevchenko are giants in the rapidly growing research area on status in world politics. The theoretical framework at the center of Quest for Status has, for good reason, become enormously influential since the authors first articulated it more than 15 years ago. The argument borrows insights from social identity theory (SIT) to construct a neat taxonomy of status-seeking strategies: social mobility emulates the “values, norms, and practices” of higher-status actors in order to “be admitted to more prestigious institutions or clubs” (p. 6); social competition aims to “equal or surpass the dominant group on the value dimension by which its superior status is measured”—typically military and economic power (p. 9); social creativity seeks status on dimensions other than those defining the dominant state’s advantage or constituting elite groups (pp. 11–14). Perceptions of international social conditions drive strategic choices: when elite clubs are open to new members, states prefer mobility; when they are “impermeable” and the status hierarchy seems illegitimate and amenable to change, they choose competition; otherwise, they attempt creativity (pp. 6, 7, 11). The book applies the model to interpret 500 years of Chinese and Russian foreign policy.

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