What We Are Reading Today: Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers by Yan Xuetong

Updated 25 March 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers by Yan Xuetong

  • Yan shows how rising states like China transform the international order by reshaping power distribution and norms

While work in international relations has closely examined the decline of great powers, not much attention has been paid to the question of their rise. The upward trajectory of China is a particularly puzzling case. How has it grown increasingly important in the world arena while lagging behind the US and its allies across certain sectors? 

Borrowing ideas of political determinism from ancient Chinese philosophers, Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers explains China’s expanding influence by presenting a moral-realist theory that attributes the rise and fall of nations to political leadership. Yan Xuetong shows that the stronger a rising state’s political leadership, the more likely it is to displace a prevailing state in the international system. 

Yan defines political leadership through the lens of morality, specifically the ability of a government to fulfill its domestic responsibility and maintain international strategic credibility. Examining leadership at the personal, national, and international levels. 

Yan shows how rising states like China transform the international order by reshaping power distribution and norms. Yan also considers the reasons for America’s diminishing international stature even as its economy, education system, military, political institutions, and technology hold steady. The polarization of China and the US will not result in another Cold War scenario, but their mutual distrust will ultimately drive the world center from Europe to East Asia.


What We Are Reading Today: Parisian Lives by Deirdre Bair

Updated 08 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Parisian Lives by Deirdre Bair

  • Parisian Lives “pulls you in slowly but deeply

Award-winning biographer Deirdre Bair explores her 15 remarkable years in Paris with Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, painting intimate new portraits of two literary giants and revealing secrets of the biographical art.

Parisian Lives “pulls you in slowly but deeply. It isn’t just about writing about two famous authors but the memoir (of the) writer’s life as well and what it takes to be a biographer,” said a review published in goodreads.com. 

It said the stories relating to both Beckett and de Beauvoir “are different but equally compelling. These stories are page turners.”

The review added: “Drawing on Bair’s extensive notes from the period, including never-before-told anecdotes and details that were considered impossible to publish at the time, Parisian Lives is full of personality and warmth and give us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.”

It said that Bair’s memoir “is the interrelated stories of writing biographies of Beckett and de Beauvoir and Bair’s own journey of discovery while launching her academic career.”