Thursday, October 8, 2009

49) China Fragile Superpower, a book by Susan Shirk

Susan L. Shirk
China: Fragile Superpower
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

The cover page of this book asks "How China's Internal Politics Could Derail its Peaceful Rise", and the cover photo shows a manifestation: a huge crowd, a leading student with a red banner and a security officer in the melée trying to communicate by talk-phone.

In fact, this interesting book about China, by the Professor at University of California (San Diego) Susan Shirk, deals not only with chinese domestic problems, but also external challenges, such as the United States, Japan, Taiwan, and its rise as "responsible power".
The book, in its paperback edition of 2008 (there was a first edition in 2007), refers to the Olympic Games in Beijing and the terrible earthquake in Sichuan province, not least with the protests in Tibet and some other recent developments.
I quote from the Preface to this new edition:

"At the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2007, there was a lot of talk about 'democracy' within the Party, but no significant progress toward allowing Party members or mid-level officials to vote for the top post within the Party as Vietnam, for example, is now doing. The Chinese oligarchy continued its traditional practice of leadership succession behind closed doors. They compromised on a package deal that elevated the number of young leaders into the top ranks and picked Xi Jinping, the one of them conspicuously not associated with current leader Hu Jintao or anyone else, to become number one when Hu steps down five years from now.
Nor has electoral democracy been introduced at lower levels except in villages, which are not units of government. Elections at the next-highest level, the township, have been banned." (p. ix)

1. Strong Abroad but Fragile at Home, 1
2. China's Economic Miracle, 13
3. Domestic Threats, 35
4. The Echo Chamber of Nationalism: Media and the Internet, 79
5. The Responsible Power, 105
6. Japan: "When the Chinese People Get Angry, the Result is Always trouble", 140
7. Taiwan: "A Question of Regime Survival", 181
8. The United States: "External Troubles Can Become Internal Troubles", 212
9. China Weakness, America's Danger, 255
Appendix: Chinese and Japanese Periodicals

2. China's Economic Miracle:

"Deng explained that 'one important reason for China's backwardness after the industrial revolution in Western countries was its closed-door policy', and that opening the door would enable China 'to make use of capital from foreign countries and of their advanced technology and experience in business managment'. (Note 25: Deng Xiaoping, "Building Socialism with a specifically Chinese Character", Selected Works, vol. 3 (Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1993) 64 (...) quoted in Wu Jinglian, Understanding and Interpreting Chinese Economic Reform (Mason, Ohio: Thomson Southwestern, 2005), p. 294.)
Back in the Ming Dinasty (1368-1644), China traded extensively over the Silk Road and sea routes. The Qing Dinasty, however, banned maritime trade with foreign countries, until China was forced open by European imperialist powers. Under Mao, the PRC walled itself off from the world and fell increasingly behind Europe, the United States, Japan, and even Korea and Taiwan." (p. 19)

"This socialist country now has one of the most privatized health-care systems in the world. (...) National spending for eduction, 3.28% of GDP (2003), is well below the 4.1 percent that is the average for developing countries, and many rural poor cannot afford the high-school fees." (p. 33)

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