Dr. John Garver Presents on China Quest

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On October 25, 2016, the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy hosted John Garver, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, for a presentation and book signing of his latest book, China’s Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China. Since its publication, outlets such as Foreign Affairs have given the book rave reviews, claiming that it gives a “clear, compelling narrative” of China from 1949 until today.

Dr. Garver began the presentation with a brief explanation of his process for writing the book, drawing inspiration from his time as a professor at Georgia Tech. He explained that in the courses he taught on Chinese foreign policy, there were a number of great articles and journals that tackled the subject, but never one book which compiled the history of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The foundation of the book came from a missing necessity in his classes and was the fruition of a lifetime of his study on Chinese foreign policy.

He explained the structure of his book, outlining that while it does feature the history of the PRC’s foreign policy, it does so from a political science point of view, thus forming what he calls an analytical structure. Dr. Garver explained that the book shows how domestic politics can be drivers of change and arranged his structure to illustrate his argument in three aspects: the destruction of the old state and formation of a new one, the creation and maintenance of state legitimacy, and regime survival. The book thus combines analysis and history by explaining how these components affected Chinese foreign policy in each era of history.

Dr. Garver explained that substantive structure of the book was presented as a historical drama, with three acts of modern Chinese history. The first, from 1949-1978, was the Maoist era with the destruction of the old capitalist state and formation of this new proletariat state modeled after Stalin’s USSR. This process of socialist construction and industrialization led to a war and a revolution in foreign policy. The second act, from 1978-1989, began with the destruction of the Maoist state filled with legitimacy issues and angry citizens, and formation of a new regime aimed at increasing the quality of life by a new foreign policy of peace and development. The third act, 1989 until today, is the act of socialism in one state, where authoritarian regimes around the world have fallen creating deep a legitimacy crisis as a driver for foreign policy. During this third act, leadership in the third act recognized that the development ideas of the second act needed to be supplemented by the mobilization of the citizenry against the enemy, thus creating a nationalist state with a strong military.

Dalton Lin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the Sam Nunn School, gave commentary on China’s Quest. He began by explaining that the book is essential for understanding state formation and the sustainability of the government of China. The book thus teaches readers how to understand foreign policy and its implications. Dr. Lin emphasized that the book fills a missing void in Chinese studies by giving students a narrative mosaic of how domestic politics has driven foreign policy in China. This theme gives readers a theoretical map to evaluate probable future Chinese decisions, an important tool as China gains importance in the international arena.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Anna Cathryn Finch
  • Created: 11/02/2016
  • Modified By: Christopher McDermott
  • Modified: 12/09/2016


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