Avoiding war with China is the most urgent task of our lifetime. Kevin Rudd has written the year’s best China book, in the vein of Graham Allison’s Destined for War, which I reviewed in these pages (“Must We Fight?,” Fall 2017), and Rush Doshi’s The Long Game (“If China Ran the World,” Fall 2021). Rudd—who is fluent in Mandarin and personally familiar with many of the key figures in his book—is the only professionally trained sinologist to have headed a Western government, having served as Australia’s prime minister (2007-10, 2013) and foreign minister (2010-12) under the Labour Party. With thoroughness and precision, Rudd has assembled a wide array of information and historical background. Specialists will find the book more congenial than the general reader—much of it reads like an edited version of ministerial briefing papers. Nonetheless, it is one of the best single-volume surveys of the China issue available to the public.

Still, there is much to quibble with in Rudd’s long and dense account, starting with the title, The Avoidable War: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict between the US and Xi Jinping’s China. A conflict may erupt, but it may not be with “Xi Jinping’s China,” but rather with a China led by Xi’s enemies. Xi, as Rudd observes,

 

is acutely aware that the radical

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