Wednesday, July 18, Book Review: "China shakes the world" by James Kynge This is a very well-written book: easy to read, vivid, informative and thoughtful about future trends. James Kynge has spent 19 years in Asia, half of that reporting from China, latterly for the Financial Times. His direct experience may be the most valuable aspect: he gives a sense not only of what the Chinese are doing, but their motivation. This is an interpretive, sequential and selective summary, and I do suggest you buy the book - US Amazon link here hard cover , UK Amazon link here paperback. It opens with the widely-quoted narrative about moving a steelworks from Dortmund, Germany to the Yangtse delta in China.
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Entertaining, very. Kynge is a journalist. A good journalist who thinks about his subject and tries to go beyond the surface, but he is not an academic or, at least upon the evidence of this book, a deep thinker.
As a result I was left with the feeling that I often have after reading articles in the Economist or the Atlantic Monthly Interesting, definitely. As a result I was left with the feeling that I often have after reading articles in the Economist or the Atlantic Monthly or Vanity Fair i.
He speaks Chinese, he has interviewed people from all walks of life, he has gathered many fascinating anecdotes and stories, and he has tried to make sense of it all And yet I was really hoping for was an authoritative analysis.
China is so large, so important, and is at the heart of so many key trends and questions about the future of humanity on this planet that I want, no, need to read that book. This one raised more questions than it gave answers.
And perhaps that is unavoidable: authoritative works tend to be written afterwards not during the events they describe. An example to illustrate the point: towards the end of the book there is an anecdote in which a reasonable, apparently logical and cultured, Chinese woman who Kynge has known for years suddenly turns into a rabid nationalist before his eyes.
It is truly scary. Kynge tries to in the "best" -- cough, cough -- tradition of modern journalism balance it with a more optimistic interaction with the same woman a month later, but I got the impression that not even he really believed the balance.
No, the stark truth is that, despite millennia of civilization, a rich cultural history, and astounding recent economic progress, from the perspective of the political sophistication of its people China is still in the Dark Ages.
China never had an Enlightenment, China has until very recently hardly engaged with the wider world, China was not a primary actor in the two World Wars, and the Chinese have lived under a modern information-controlling dictatorship for the past 50 years. These things matter and mean that we cannot expect the Chinese to act as we would, or in all too many cases as we would wish we would.
Immensely powerful, with a high opinion of itself, but fundamentally naive. Like Americans they are a nation of farmers, workers, and shopkeepers suddenly become a Great Power. Lastly, and most importantly, like Americans but even more so due to living in a society without a free press they have not developed the almost instinctual cynicism about politics and the state that is typical in Europe: in other words they tend to believe what they are told.
The anecdote mentioned above is chilling for precisely that reason: on many issues of importance to the outside world there will be no internal counterbalance to the Chinese state -- the Chinese will do what their leaders tell them to do.
China Shakes the World: A Titan's Rise and Troubled Future -- and the Challenge for America
How can the US, Europe and indeed the rest of the world respond to the emerging giant? James Kynge, author of the recently published China Shakes the World, answers your questions. For an edited extract from China Shakes the World, click here. The most thought-provoking online contributions may be published in the Financial Times newspaper. Please supply your full name and location.
China Shakes the World by James Kynge; China’s Trapped Transition by Minxin Pei
Entertaining, very. Kynge is a journalist. A good journalist who thinks about his subject and tries to go beyond the surface, but he is not an academic or, at least upon the evidence of this book, a deep thinker. As a result I was left with the feeling that I often have after reading articles in the Economist or the Atlantic Monthly Interesting, definitely.