when gerry segal asked ‘does china matter?’ in 1999, his answer was an unequivocal ‘no’:
the country that is home to a fifth of humankind is overrated as a market, a power, and a source of ideas. at best, china is a second-rank middle power that has mastered the art of diplomatic theater: it has us willingly suspending our disbelief in its strength. in fact, china is better understood as a theoretical power – a country that has promised to deliver for much of the last 150 years but has consistently disappointed. after 50 years of mao’s revolution and 20 years of reform, it is time to leave the theater and see china for what it is. only when we finally understand how little china matters will we be able to craft a sensible policy toward it.