The large majority of English language books examining China’s economic rise and its concomitant return to geopolitical preeminence have, inevitably and perhaps necessarily, been from the Western perspective. (When China Rules The World, by English Marxist Martin Jacques, being the most notable exception). Now China’s Economic Rise and Its Global Impact comes determined, as the authors state in the preface, to provide “an alternative approach to study why China’s economy has grown so big so quickly” and aim to “generate a balanced view on China’s political economy”.
Laudable aims. And the book certainly has some particular strengths, such as its understanding of the problems facing China’s economy, and the steps being taken to overcome them; and on the gross self-interest masquerading as economic counsel pushed by the US and Western countries to developing economies – as seen again and again in the disastrous results from Russia’s shock transition to capitalism to the Tiger Economies during the 1997 financial crises.
However, whenever the book discusses China’s interaction with Western nations, the tone becomes shrill and aggressively defensive. One welcomes a counterpoint to Western perspectives, but they have at least to be logically consistent. China’s Economic Rise instead parlays any fact and bends it in the desperate aim of convincing the reader that China is right, China is fair, China is wise, China is benevolent, China is peaceful. So, for example, “[u]nlike their Western counterparts, the average Chinese is a thrifty consumer, buying what he or she needs or wants with cash” – but in the very next sentence we’re told that consumer credit isn’t available in China. So much for thriftiness. Chinese defense spending was necessitated by the Americans. Chinese corruption probably aided economic growth. China’s leaders wisely stopped disasters like the Cultural Revolution before it got out of hand. And so it goes.
Unusually for a book from Palgrave Macmillan, the book is occasionally clumsy verbally, and the references are sometimes sophomoric. Citing Wikipedia just isn’t on. There is a definite need for a book detailing China’s great rise and envisioning its ambitions, but this unfortunately is not it.
Published in Business Tianjin