In an important and timely new book, Thomas J. Wright warns that the liberal international order is facing a deep and unprecedented crisis. The past five years have seen the “end of the era of convergence” and “the advent of a more nationalist and competitive world” (p. ix). Russian meddling in Ukraine, Chinese revisionism in the South China Sea, and the escalation of civil strife across the Middle East are signs of a new era of “high-stakes peacetime competition” in global politics (p. xii). Rather than reduce its international role or seek to accommodate its geopolitical rivals, the United States should pursue a strategy of “responsible competition” designed both to defend and to rebuild the liberal order (p. xiii).
Among the many virtues of this book are its clarity and precision. Wright draws on international relations theory where appropriate, but he does not burden his argument with picayune debates. He is also careful not to overstate his claims. He acknowledges that “there is contradictory evidence on China's intentions” (p. 71) while making the case that China seeks to carve out its own sphere of influence. He accepts that Russia is “locked into a long-term economic decline” (p. 51), yet he carefully explains how it is nevertheless “determined to use its hard power to rev
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