Foreign Affairs hosts an article on entitled The Faces of Chinese Power, more or less excerpted from a new book.

Accurately assessing the power of China is still a critical task today, especially with renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula and continuing volatility in the Taiwan Strait. Overestimating China’s leverage over North Korea is a problem. Since 2002-3, the Bush administration has subcontracted most of the effort to halt North Korea’s nuclear programs to Beijing, mistakenly assuming that Beijing has the power and the inclination to stop Pyongyang. The Chinese government does not want nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has considerable leverage over Kim Jong Il, but exercising this power would bring substantial costs to China, and its muscle is unlikely to be sufficient if the United States does not simultaneously give North Korea positive incentives to comply. Washington and Beijing may be cooperating better now, following North Korea’s nuclear test in October 2006, but it remains far from clear whether Beijing can compel Pyongyang to accept an agreement that may seem contrary to its core interests.

In terms of economic power, Americans tend to exaggerate China’s role as a seller and exporter while underappreciating its activities as a buyer, importer, and investor. And they underestimate China’s intellectual, leadership, diplomatic, cultural, and other symbolic power…..

…and don’t forget those pandas!