"Restless Empire" examines the past 250 years of Chinese history - in particular China's foreign relations - to consider the issues and preoccupations that have haunted the Chinese agenda over the course of two and half centuries. Tracing the nation's history from the Qing Dynasty in the eighteenth century to the People's Republic in the twenty-first, Westad shows how China's world view has been determined by both its receptiveness and its resistance to outside influence. China's economic output has increased rapidly over the past thirty years, and most people believe that within two decades China will have overtaken the United States to become the world's largest economy. The Chinese Academy of Sciences proclaims that by that time the country will have eradicated poverty among its population of more than 1.5 billion and increased the average lifespan to 80 years, while establishing itself as the world's technological powerhouse. Meanwhile, some - especially its neighbours - fear that China will strengthen its military might in order to bend others to its will. Westad shows, however, that a new form of Chinese nationalism is rising.
Many Chinese are angry about the past injustices they feel they have endured and afraid that the country is losing its identity and mission to commercialisation and foreign influences. Will China's attraction to world society dwindle, or will China continue to engage with other global powers? Will it attempt to recreate a Sino-centric international order in East Asia, or pursue a more harmonious diplomatic route? And can it overcome its lack of democracy and transparency, or are these qualities hard-wired into the Chinese system? Whatever the case, one thing is certain: we ignore Chinese history at our peril. "Restless Empire" is the book for anyone who wants to understand China's past, present, and future relations with the rest of the world.