Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Re-reading James Fallows and China

I re-read parts of James Fallows’ short book of China essays Postcards from Tomorrow Square because I was trying to remember his conclusions. I respect Fallows because I liked his thesis from the 1980s, when he concluded that America doesn’t need to copy Japan, but rather should be More Like Us.  But since Postcards was among the first of many books about China that I've blitzkrieged my way through since arriving here two years ago, I like reading it again now with more seasoned eyes.

I would summarize his conclusion like this: China is simply too busy holding itself together as it escapes poverty, too busy for America to worry about as a serious rival. Rather than worry, we (Americans) should view China with confidence, helping them avoid some of the natural problems they’ll face on their long road to modernity.

I agree, though I'm probably more uncomfortable than he is with some of the self-destructive behavior of the American government over the past few years, with its emphasis on tougher homeland security, centralization of decision-making, and even Internet regulation -- all of which makes me think the United States is trying harder to become more like China than the other way around.