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Book Cover The Sentinel State: Surveillance and the Survival of Dictatorship in China By Minxin Pei

The Sentinel State: Surveillance and the Survival of Dictatorship in China
By Minxin Pei

Harvard University Press, February 2024
336 pages

Countering recent hype around technology, a leading expert argues that the endurance of dictatorship in China owes less to facial recognition AI and GPS tracking than to the human resources of the Leninist surveillance state.

For decades China watchers argued that economic liberalization and increasing prosperity would bring democracy to the world’s most populous country. Instead, the Communist Party’s grip on power has only strengthened. Why? The answer, Minxin Pei argues, lies in the effectiveness of the Chinese surveillance state. And the source of that effectiveness is not just advanced technology like facial recognition AI and mobile phone tracking. These are important, but what matters more is China’s vast, labor-intensive infrastructure of domestic spying.
The CCP’s Leninist bureaucratic structure―whereby officials and party activists penetrate every sector of society and the economy, from universities and village committees to delivery companies, telecommunication firms, and Tibetan monasteries―ensures that Beijing’s eyes and ears are truly everywhere.

While today’s system is far more robust than that of years past, it is modeled after mass surveillance implemented under Mao Zedong and Chinese emperors centuries ago. Rigorously empirical and rich in historical insight, The Sentinel State is a singular contribution to our knowledge about coercion in the Chinese state and, more generally, the survival strategies of authoritarian regimes.


“In his fascinating, meticulously researched ‘The Sentinel State,’ Pei focuses on how the Chinese government upgraded its surveillance capabilities to prevent another social movement like the one that inspired the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising.”―Annalee Newitz, New York Times Book Review

“Pei believes it is surveillance, and not the oft-cited factors of economic growth, nationalism, and the culture of deference, that is ‘the key to the survival’ of the Chinese communist party-state. Such a robust system could fail only if the government’s revenue managers failed to raise enough tax money to support it.”―Andrew J. Nathan, Foreign Affairs

“Pei ably untangles and demystifies the Chinese surveillance system: for all its obscure and sinister aura, he paints it as the work of harried bureaucrats who struggle with glitchy equipment and unproductive employees…It adds up to a clear-eyed account of China’s surveillance crusade.”―Publishers Weekly

“A timely, important book on a subject that has received little attention in Western literature. Pei offers both an illuminating analysis of the surveillance state’s historical evolution and a broad overview of its operations across different sectors in contemporary China. Theoretically informed and empirically rich, this is a welcome contribution.”―Lynette Ong, author of Outsourcing Repression: Everyday State Power in Contemporary China


Minxin Pei is the author of several books on Chinese domestic politics, including China’s Crony Capitalism: The Dynamics of Regime Decay and China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy. He is the Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College.


Book Cover: Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present By Fareed Zakaria

Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash from 1600 to the Present
By Fareed Zakaria

W.W. Norton & Company, March 2024
400 Pages
The CNN host and best-selling author explores the revolutions―past and present―that define the polarized and unstable age in which we live.
In this major work, Fareed Zakaria masterfully investigates the eras and movements that have shaken norms while shaping the modern world. Three such periods hold profound lessons for today. First, in the seventeenth-century Netherlands, a fascinating series of transformations made that tiny land the richest in the world―and created politics as we know it today. Next, the French Revolution, an explosive era that devoured its ideological children and left a bloody legacy that haunts us today. Finally, the mother of all revolutions, the Industrial Revolution, which catapulted Great Britain and the US to global dominance and created the modern world.
Alongside these paradigm-shifting historical events, Zakaria probes four present-day revolutions: globalization, technology, identity, and geopolitics. For all their benefits, the globalization and technology revolutions have produced profound disruptions and pervasive anxiety and our identity. And increasingly, identity is the battlefield on which the twenty-first century’s polarized politics are fought. All this is set against a geopolitical revolution as great as the one that catapulted the United States to world power in the late nineteenth century. Now we are entering a world in which the US is no longer the dominant power. As we find ourselves at the nexus of four seismic revolutions, we can easily imagine a dark future. But Zakaria proves that pessimism is premature. If we act wisely, the liberal international order can be revived and populism relegated to the ash heap of history.

“Zakaria believes that we can and do make progress. But he is wary of the assumption that history tends to move in the direction of ever-greater human flourishing . . . Zakaria’s book represents an attempt to distinguish between revolutions that have inspired thermostatic reactions and revolutions that have endured.”
― Gideon Lewis-Kraus, New Yorker

“This is the indispensable book for understanding the world today. Fareed Zakaria tackles the central question of our age: What are the causes of the seismic social disruptions we are going through and the political backlashes that have ensued? Connecting five centuries of history to a deep understanding of our current anxieties, he shows how transformations in technology, economics, and politics interact. We are living through one of the most revolutionary ages in history, and the resulting disruptions have led to a clash between those who celebrate progress, open markets, and technology versus those who resist them. Zakaria argues that we must infuse our journey forward with moral meaning and restore a sense of pride in the ideals of freedom, individual rights, and democracy. The result is both a fascinating look at history and an inspiring vision for the future”
― Walter Isaacson, author of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Leonardo da Vinci, and Einstein, among others


Fareed Zakaria is the host of CNN’s international affairs show, “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” as well as weekly columnist for the Washington Post. He is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World. He lives in New York City.


Book Cover: The Achilles Trap: Saddam Hussein, the C.I.A., and the Origins of America’s Invasion of Iraq By Steve Coll

The Achilles Trap: Saddam Hussein, the C.I.A., and the Origins of America’s Invasion of Iraq

By Steve Coll

Penguin Press, February 2024
576 pages

From bestselling and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Steve Coll, the definitive story of the decades-long relationship between the United States and Saddam Hussein, and a deeply researched and news-breaking investigation into how human error, cultural miscommunication, and hubris led to one of the costliest geopolitical conflicts of our time.

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, its message was clear: Iraq, under the control of strongman Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction that, if left unchecked, posed grave danger to the world. But when no WMDs were found, the United States and its allies were forced to examine the political and intelligence failures that had led to the invasion and the occupation, and the civil war that followed.

The Achilles Trap masterfully untangles the people, ploys of power, and geopolitics that led to America’s disastrous war with Iraq and, for the first time, details America’s fundamental miscalculations during its decades-long relationship with Saddam Hussein. Beginning with Saddam’s rise to power in 1979 and the birth of Iraq’s secret nuclear weapons program, Steve Coll traces Saddam’s motives by way of his inner circle. . . .This was a man whose reasoning was impossible to reduce to a simple explanation, and the CIA and successive presidential administrations failed to grasp critical nuances of his paranoia, resentments, and inconsistencies—even when the stakes were incredibly high.

. . . .A work of great historical significance, The Achilles Trap is the definitive account of how corruptions of power, lies of diplomacy, and vanity—on both sides—led to avoidable errors of statecraft, ones that would enact immeasurable human suffering and forever change the political landscape as we know it.


“[A]n engrossing portrait of Hussein, which is drawn from interviews with U.S. officials, U.N. weapons inspectors and surviving members of the dictator’s government as well as what Coll calls the Saddam tapes . . . The resulting details he assembles give a more intimate picture of the dictator’s thinking about world politics, local power and his relationship to the United States than has been seen before . . . The new material captures a trained assassin and rural tribesman who could be sharp and worldly, but was more often erratic and paranoid . . . Unlike his main character, Coll succeeds in part because he has an eye for dramatic irony . . . ‘Narcissism is dangerous and can cost a man the opportunity to be wise,’ Coll quotes him saying. Saddam Hussein failed to understand that he might as well have been talking about himself.” —New York Times

“[R]ichly detailed . . . The Achilles Trap—the title is a reference to the code name given to a covert CIA effort to topple Saddam—is a compelling tale even for those steeped in the sordid history of US-Iraqi relations . . . Coll’s narrative is also filled with refreshingly contrarian takes on what otherwise seems like settled history . . . By the book’s end, the 2003 invasion feels almost like a disastrous but inevitable coda.” —Financial Times

“[A] tour de force examination of the events leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq . . . That the invasion ultimately proved disastrous has been well documented by others, but Coll’s unparalleled research into its background turns up a great deal of unfamiliar, illuminating information. Required reading for all conscientious citizens.” —Kirkus


Steve Coll is the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Ghost Wars and dean emeritus of the Columbia Journalism School, and from 2007 to 2013 was president of New America, a public policy institute in Washington, DC. He is an editor at The Economist in London, was a staff writer at The New Yorker for nearly two decades, and before that was a writer and editor at The Washington Post, where he received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990. He is the author of nine books, including The Bin Ladens, Private Empire, and Directorate S.


Book Cover: Spying through A Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence By Cecile Fabre

Spying through A Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence

By Cecile Fabre

Oxford University Press, March 2024
251 pages

Espionage and counter-intelligence activities, both real and imagined, weave a complex and alluring story. Yet there is hardly any serious philosophical work on the subject. Cécile Fabre presents a systematic account of the ethics of espionage and counterintelligence. She argues that such operations, in the context of war and foreign policy, are morally justified as a means, but only as a means, to protect oneself and third parties from ongoing violations of fundamental rights. In doing so, she addresses a range of ethical questions: are intelligence officers morally permitted to bribe, deceive, blackmail, and manipulate as a way to uncover state secrets? Is cyber espionage morally permissible? Are governments morally permitted to resort to the mass surveillance of their and foreign populations as a means to unearth possible threats against national security? Can treason ever be morally permissible? Can it ever be legitimate to resort to economic espionage in the name of national security? The book offers answers to those questions through a blend of philosophical arguments and historical examples.


“Cécile Fabre’s latest book further demonstrates that she is among the most insightful and prolific thinkers working on the ethics of foreign policy. Here she expands her reach by turning to an under-addressed issue in political theory and applied ethics: the morality of espionage.” — Saba Bazargan-Forward, University of California San Diego, Ethics

“Spying Through a Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence is a comprehensive and forensic survey of espionage practices and the necessary evils sometimes carried out by their exponents. It would be of particular interest to philosophers, legal theorists and military historians.” — Graham Elliott, Philosophy Now

“The book is a magnificent achievement and deserves to be a classic in the fields of law, philosophy and international relations.” — Fordham Law School, Critical Notice


Cécile Fabre is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow in Politics at All Souls College. Previously she taught at the London School of Economics and the University of Edinburgh. She holds degrees from the Sorbonne University, the University of York, and the University of Oxford. Her research interests include theories of distributive justice, issues relating to the rights we have over our own body and, more recently, just war theory and the ethics of foreign policy.


Book Cover: American Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Practitioners as Change Agents in Foreign Relations By Bruce Gregory

American Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Practitioners as Change Agents in Foreign Relations

By Bruce Gregory

Palgrave Macmillan, January 2024
500 pages

This is the first book to frame U.S. public diplomacy in the broad sweep of American diplomatic practice from the early colonial period to the present. It tells the story of how change agents in practitioner communities – foreign service officers, cultural diplomats, broadcasters, citizens, soldiers, covert operatives, democratizers, and presidential aides – revolutionized traditional government-to-government diplomacy and moved diplomacy with the public into the mainstream. This deeply researched study bridges practice and multi-disciplinary scholarship. It challenges the common narrative that U.S. public diplomacy is a Cold War creation that was folded into the State Department in 1999 and briefly found new life after 9/11. . . .


“Bruce Gregory presents a thorough and elegantly written history of American diplomacy’s not always-successful efforts to influence the global public. This book will prove indispensable for public diplomacy scholars and practitioners.” — Philip Seib, Professor Emeritus of Journalism and Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California
“In this original study, Bruce Gregory provides an account of how the public dimension to America’s diplomacy was present before the creation of the Republic, evolved in response to historical turning points and changes in the technologies of communication, and remains of vital importance today. For anyone who wants to know what is exceptional about America’s public diplomacy – for good and ill – and how the challenges it faces today might be addressed, Gregory provides much-needed answers.” — Paul Sharp, Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota

“Bruce Gregory has written a sweeping history of U.S. public diplomacy, packed with useful advice for practitioners and real-life examples of how individual leaders were able to shift U.S. government policies and practices. It should be essential reading for students, scholars, diplomats, and public diplomacy professionals.” — Kristin M.Lord, President and CEO, IREX

“[This book] is the first truly comprehensive history of the American way of engaging with other peoples, as distinct from other states. It is a dialectically open “conversation” about the past, present, and future of US public diplomacy. Deeply researched and factually informative, it is sure to become a landmark in the field.” — Alan K. Henrikson, Founding Director of Diplomatic Studies, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University


Bruce Gregory’s 33-year government career included positions at the Department of State, U.S. Information Agency, Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, and three years on the faculty of the National War College. Over a 17-year period he taught graduate and undergraduate courses on public diplomacy at Georgetown University and George Washington University for 17 years. His publications have appeared in peer-reviewed articles, public policy reports, and a bimonthly literature review.


Pakistan and American Diplomacy: Book Cover: Insights from 9/11 to the Afghanistan Endgame By Ted Craig

Pakistan and American Diplomacy: Insights from 9/11 to the Afghanistan Endgame

By Ted Craig

Potomac Books/University of Nebraska Press, April 2024
288 pages

Pakistan and American Diplomacy offers an insightful. . . tour through Pakistan-U.S. relations, from 9/11 to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as told from the perspective of a former U.S. diplomat who served twice in Pakistan. Ted Craig frames his narrative around the 2019 Cricket World Cup, a contest that saw Pakistan square off against key neighbors and cricketing powers Afghanistan, India, and Bangladesh, and its former colonial ruler, Britain.

Craig provides perceptive analysis of Pakistan’s diplomacy since its independence in 1947, shedding light on the country’s contemporary relations with the United States, China, India, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. With insights from the field and from Washington, Craig reflects on the chain of policy decisions that led to the fall of the Kabul government in 2021 and offers a sober and balanced view of the consequences of that policy failure. Drawing on his post–Cold War diplomatic career, Craig presents U.S.-Pakistan policy in the context of an American experiment in promoting democracy while combating terrorism.

“Ted Craig’s book is packed with the wisdom of a professional diplomat, its pages peppered with insights won through tours of high-pressure diplomacy in Islamabad. A keen observer of the sport of politics and the politics of sport, Craig is above all a judicious analyst who accepts that in South Asian geopolitics, unlike cricket, lose-lose outcomes are always possible, even likely. Craig’s knowledge, introspection, and commitment to seeking saner and smarter U.S. policy options will inspire students and practitioners alike.”—Daniel Markey, senior adviser on South Asia at the United States Institute of Peace

“Ted Craig provides an accessible, penetrating look at Pakistani and American policies through the difficult two decades after 9/11, exposing wishful thinking in both countries’ approach to the Afghanistan conflict. A veteran of two diplomatic assignments to Islamabad, Craig writes with obvious affection toward Pakistan and its national pastime, cricket. Still, he casts a skeptical eye on the security policies of Pakistan, India, and the United States, while also providing useful insights for general readers and diplomatic practitioners alike.”—Ambassador Salman Bashir, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, 2008–12

“Pakistan and American Diplomacy provides an excellent overview of the political and diplomatic aspects of U.S.-Pakistan relations in the aftermath of 9/11. Sound and authoritative, this book will make a useful addition to the literature on Pakistan’s foreign policy, both because of the analysis provided and in the creative way in which this analysis is framed.”—Jonathan Addleton, former U.S. ambassador to Mongolia and author of The Dust of Kandahar: A Diplomat among Warriors in Afghanistan


Ted Craig currently serves in South Asia as a counterterrorism program advisor. He retired from the U.S. Foreign Service after twenty-nine years and two tours in Islamabad, Pakistan, the second as political counselor. He also served three tours in Latin America and held policy jobs related to peace and security, environmental diplomacy, and human rights.

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