Saturday, August 28, 2010

[Book] When China Rules the World

I don't recommend this book.

The author, a journalist, read widely about China and I appreciate his excellent summary of sources at the end of the book, and he captures many interesting facts along the way.

His analysis makes several mistakes:
  • Assumes a linear progress of history. The unseen parts of the future are far more important than what you can see, but he doesn't appreciate, for example, how unimaginable new inventions might revolutionize the demands Chinese people have on openness and democracy.
  • Forgets that "Western Society" is old too.  American culture didn't begin in 1776.  Christianity had as much political affect on Europe as the various dynasties had on China.
  • He associates "The West" just with democracy and ignores a more universal liberal tradition that has put great value on new ideas and progress for a very long time.
  • Ignores the huge elephant of why China, after thousands of years plus a century of humiliation, finally is rising.  Could it be that the rise is caused by China's acceptance and imitation of Western capitalism?

Summary: the eight ways that China's rise will affect the world
  1. China is a civilization state, not a nation-state. [i basically agree with this]
  2. China will use a tributary-state system [not sure I understand, but there may be a point here]
  3. Distinctively Chinese attitude toward race and ethnicity. [irrelevant]
  4. China is a continental-sized country. [just another play on the concept that it's a huge country]
  5. Chinese political power doesn't have the concept of civil society outside government. [i agree]
  6. Chinese modernity is distinguished by the speed of its transformation [seems a weakness in its ability to rise]
  7. China is a communist country [but he admits it isn't really one any more]
  8. China will combine the characteristics of a developed and a developing country. [another weakness]