I first developed the concept for my monograph, China as a Risk Society, as a result of my experience as a Fulbright lecturer in Hong Kong in 2002-2003, the year of the SARS crisis, when I observed a complete turnaround in China’s relations with its neighbors due to the Chinese government’s mishandling of the epidemic.  Although I have written a great deal over the past decade about great power relations in Asia, that year in Hong Kong refocused my interest on the impact of  non-traditional security issues such as epidemics,  environmental degradation, and food safety on China’s relations with its neighbors.
My earlier work focused on Russia’s China policy.  After learning Chinese and spending some years in China I have continued my interest in China-Russia relations, this time from the Chinese perspective.  In recent years I have examined China-Russia-U.S. relations in Central Asia and currently I am working on an article on China’s Afghanistan policy.

B.A. Barnard College (Political Science); M.A. Yale University (Russian and East European Studies); Ph.D. Columbia University (International Relations) 

Project Summary

Globalization has expanded transnational linkages between China and its neighbors, creating new opportunities for economic exchange and collaboration, but also making China’s partners vulnerable to a range of socio-economic risks engendered by Chinese modernization. These problems, emanating from the developmental choices Chinese leaders have made over the past 33 years of reform create risk for China and its neighbors.   To address the multifaceted challenges that globalization poses, the Chinese government will need both sufficient regulatory capacity and transparency, areas where China remains relatively weak. How China’s leaders and its neighbors manage that risk will play a key role in determining the Asian security environment in the 21st century.

My book, China as a Risk Society, takes a new look at Chinese foreign policy by focusing on the impact of transnational problems originating in China on its foreign relations with its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.  Chapters in the monograph are organized as case studies, examining how risks from rising energy demand, air pollution, water-related problems (pollution, scarcity, hydropower), epidemics, and food safety issues shape China’s relations with its neighbors in Asia and the United States.  Each case evaluates China’s governance record in a particular issue area and the role of society (Chinese society, international society, and global civil society) in pressing for change in Chinese policies.  The case studies seek to understand how China and its neighbors manage these risks.

The book uses a concept of risk formulated by the German sociologist Ulrich Beck in World Risk Society. For Beck, risk refers to a specific category of non-military challenges: the unintended societal consequences of economic and technological decisions.  The book concludes with the possibility that China and its Asia-Pacific partners may seek to form “risk communities” to share information and better manage particular types of risk, though such cooperation presupposes a shared commitment to transparency, which may be difficult to achieve in the short term. 

Major Publications

  • Mending Fences with China: The Evolution of Moscow's China Policy from Brezhnev to Yeltsin (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001). 
  • Russia, China, and the U.S. in Central Asia: Competition and Cooperation in the Shadow of the Georgian Crisis, Paper commissioned by Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, February 2009. 
  • “Dilemmas of Securitization and Health Risk Management in the People’s Republic of China: The Cases of SARS and Avian Flu,” Health Policy and Planning, Vol. 25, Issue 6 November 2010, pp. 454-466.
  • “Sino-Russian Strategic Partnership: View from China,” in James Bellacqua, ed. China-Russia Relations in the Early 21st Century, Louisville: University of Kentucky Press, January 2010.
  • “Competition and Cooperative Practices in Sino-Japanese Energy and Environmental Relations: Towards an Energy Security ‘Risk Community’?” Pacific Review Vol. 22, No. 4, September 2009, pp. 399-426.
  • “Of Milk and Spacemen: The Paradox of Chinese Power in an Era of Risk, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Vol. XV, Issue II, Spring/Summer 2009, pp. 211-224.
  • “The Securitization of Chinese Migration to Russia: Rhetoric and Reality,” In eds. Melissa Curley and Wong Siu-lun, Migration and Securitisation in East Asia, Routledge Press, 2008.


Previous Terms

November 30, 1992 - December 31, 1992 Mending Fences with China: The Evolution of Moscow’s China Policy, 1969-1991