In the context of panicky exaggeration put forth by politicians and journalists alike regarding the relationship of China and the US, too few voices offer calm, reasoned, and historically backed input into this issue. Proving his relevance and timely focus yet again, Patrick Mendis offers exactly that in his latest book Peaceful War. Yes, even in this field, Mendis achieves a creative blend of historical thought with modern conceptions of citizenry to illustrate—if it pans out—what could be one of the most effective, powerful, and instructive parallels of world history: the adoption of the American Dream by China. Mendis’ analysis is based on the core assumption that China’s rise parallels that of the US, but only enough for important divergences to be noted. The American Dream in China, as Mendis points out, is China’s own in spite of the twin nomenclature.

Each of the most powerful industrialized Asian countries, from India to Japan to Singapore, has retained distinct cultural traditions while fostering dramatic economic change. The former—the deeply embedded beliefs of societies—have proven to be much stickier than the latter in spite of the drastic shifts that have taken place in how monetary exchange and business interactions work in Asia. China finds itself adhering to this pattern, but not as cleanly as would perhaps be ideal. Caught between an ancient Confucian identity, the varied vestiges of the Cultural Revolution, and an influx of western development patterns and media, the culture to which China will adhere is imperfectly defined at best.

China has a wealth of precedents to which it could appeal for various policies, complicating the issue for a nation fond of historical traditions. One does not need to look beyond the dual impacts of Confucianism on China’s historical path to see why perpetuating a belief system so apparently harmonious should come without serious reservations. Confucianism, especially during the Han and Ming dynasties, has fostered a highly ordered an efficient meritocratic bureaucracy. As the close of the Ming dynasty approached, however, Confucianism became the impetus behind the Middle Kingdom’s increasingly isolationist policies that suppressed China’s economic growth and prevented it from truly reaping the benefits of the Industrial Revolution until the 1950s. The most salient implication of this aspect of China’s history appears to be that, perhaps for the first time, the ideology driving China will be unclear. The question of whether or not this will prove to be too uncomfortable will not go away soon.

This unprecedented and meticulously researched study of the evolving Sino-American relations is rich with implications. Mendis’ look at China is timely, levelheaded, and fair above all else. As a scholar who has weaved effectively between education, writing, and diplomacy, Mendis has developed the rare ability to employ in-depth, historically accurate analogies that surprise and engage readers without approaching the faintest shade of exaggeration. For US audiences, then, the realization that China has its own dreams and the adaptation of America’s Manifest Destiny would allow for a heretofore-unseen empathy and respect. However, China’s own version of the Monroe Doctrine (Mendis calls it the “Ménluó Doctrine”) in Asia and its extension into the Caribbean will certainly raise eyebrows among those not exactly ecstatic for the US to lose international footing in its own backyard. Still, as the shift in global hegemony from the Atlantic to the Pacific appears more inevitable every day, the US should thank its expansionary past for this opportunity and responsibility to work so closely with China. For world audiences, the suggestion that there will soon be another player as significant as the US but with a distinct cultural approach to domestic and foreign policy should concentrate the mind a bit.

Mendis is not the first to connect China’s desire for regional hegemony to the Monroe Doctrine of the US, but this concept is not acknowledged as widely as it should be and its inclusion in Peaceful War is appropriate and timely. The historical gap between the Doctrine and China’s current position complicates this analogy. Whereas the Monroe Doctrine was proclaimed while the US was comparatively underdeveloped and unable to actually enforce the policy, China currently finds itself in a position of great potential power that is, ironically, curtailed by international standards of conduct. Also, the Monroe Doctrine was intended to ward off faraway intrusions from Europe, whereas China must constantly keep in mind the legitimacy of Japan’s right to the same ideological strand and the threatening nature of its manifestation in the region throughout China’s history. Regardless, what Mendis envisions is a responsible version of the Doctrine in which China could help to quell overzealous nationalistic sentiments (in North Korea, especially) and utilize its economic prowess by facilitating trade and commerce in the region. This particular argument is the prescriptive result of Mendis’ analysis; it may very well not happen, but it would be a fantastic way for China to channel its hegemonic tendencies. The legacy of the Monroe Doctrine is riddled with examples of what can go wrong when world powers assert regional authority. Still, what Mendis proposes is realistic, and one would be hard pressed to find a better plan for China to implement.

Although Mendis’ approach will appeal to a various geographical bases, this does not lead to a watered-down book lacking a strong thesis. To the contrary, Mendis’ central claim that China will inevitably have to accept a fair number of US values in order to make its own Chinese dream come true will not be accepted without friction. Nor should it. Mendis illuminates a conflict that, while not a clash of civilizations, will bring out the best and worst of traditional and progressive groups as the world’s oldest civilization revitalizes in a never before seen manner.

The most recent US government shutdown has unequivocally demonstrated to China and practically every other nation in the world which practices and ideologies should not be imported from the world’s largest debtor. It will ultimately be up to China, however, to discern which ones are worth taking, and how they can mesh with the nation’s Confucian heritage as the Peaceful War marches on.