169 Pages
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Struggling Giant


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169 Pages


This book offers a thematic discussion of the key issues surrounding the rise of China and what that will mean to people outside China in the years ahead.

The themes dealt with here include some of the most pressing issues for the Chinese and those who interact with China: the impact of China’s development on the world economic system and on its environment, the likely future stability of China, the very existence of a unified China and the fault lines along which this entity might break apart in the years ahead, and an assessment of the future of the one-party system and what might replace it. Jonathan Fenby’s enlightening foreword perfectly frames this engaging and timely exploration of one of the world’s most fascinating cultures.

Foreword by Jonathan Fenby; Introduction; China and the Two Paths; What Do We Mean When We Say China?; A Mao for All Seasons: The Master on Contradictions in the Twenty-First Century; The History Game; The Dark Side of the New PRC; Getting Used to Understanding Modern Chinese Doublespeak; How to Win Friends and Influence People in the PRC; The Kindness of Strangers: ‘Outsiders’ and Being Chinese; The Chinese Economy; Chinese Characters; Conclusions: Many Chinas, Many Truths; A Polemical Bibliography; Index



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Published 07 June 2007
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EAN13 9780857287038
Language English

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Struggling Giant
Kerry Brown first visited China in 1990, before studying Chinese in London, and then Inner Mongolia, China. He worked for the Foreign Office, in London and Beijing, before becoming an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, and setting up Strategic China Ltd. He is the author ofThe Purge of the Inner Mongolian People’s Party in the Cultural Revolution in China, 1967–1969 and has written about China for Critical Asian Studies, Far Eastern Economic Review, The Liberal, and others. He is currently working on a second book about Chinese investment, which will come out in early 2008.
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Struggling Giant
China in the 21st Century
Kerry Brown Foreword by Jonathan Fenby
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2007 by ANTHEM PRESS 7576 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK 244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © Kerry Brown 2007
Foreword © Jonathan Fenby 2007
The moral right of the authors has been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested.
ISBN10: 1 84331 278 6 (Pbk) ISBN13: 978 1 84331 278 9 (Pbk)
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Cover photograph:Shanghai Street© 2007Stuart Isett / www.isett.com
Printed in EU
Foreword by Jonathan Fenby
China and the Two Paths
What Do We Mean When We Say China?
A Mao for All Seasons: The Master on Contradictions in the Twenty-first Century
The History Game
The Dark Side of the New PRC
Getting Used to Understanding Modern Chinese Doublespeak
How to Win Friends and Influence People in the PRC
The Kindness of Strangers: ‘Outsiders’ and Being Chinese
The Chinese Economy
Chinese Characters
Conclusion: Many Chinas, Many Truths A Polemical Bibliography Index
ix xiii
1 11
21 35 53 65 75 89 101 113
135 143 147
Jonathan Fenby
China is at a pivotal point in its modern history. Given its global importance, this has major implications for the rest of the world. But there are serious limitations to the extent to which the rest of the world understands China. Every day seems to bring a new mind-boggling statistic from the People’s Republic: foreign exchange reserves are climbing above the trillion dollars mark, China is about to have 400 million mobile telephone users, the city of Chongqing will number more than 30 million people, China is set to become the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses and the largest brewer of beer on the planet. After a terrible period between the 1850s and the 1970s, China is back on course and set, in Napoleon’s phrase, to amaze the world. In the interim, it went through vast rebellions, the fall of the Empire, a decade of warlord rule, a stumbling Republic, invasion by Japan, followed immediately by civil war. Only with the Communist victory in 1949 did the world’s most heavily populated nation achieve a stable system – but that was followed by a quarter-of-a century of purges, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution before Mao died and Deng Xiaoping introduced something akin to normality at the end of the 1970s. Whether China can preserve what has been achieved since then, and build upon it, must be one of the major questions of our time. It is a question the world has not really got to grips with. Is China a competitor or a partner? Can long-term relationships be built with a nation which operates on different ideological principles to most of the rest of the globe, and is driven, primarily, by such motors as the overwhelming need for energy, a mercantilist trade policy and an overt rejection of democracy? Is the lure of the China market – Western and Japanese businesses have salivated for decades at the vision of a billion plus consumers – truly the last great market Eldorado on the planet, or is it a snare and delusion in which companies will end up losing their shirts as the Chinese keep the profits for themselves? There are two simplistic responses. One is to smile optimistically, invoke
EWORD xFOR the growth figures and the way the economy is moving up the value chain and the army of rural workers still waiting to come into the industrial labour force. China, the optimists say, is bound to go on growing. Its problems will work themselves out over time; for instance prosperity and the emergence of a substantial middle class will lead to a new ecological consciousness that will produce solutions to the country’s horrific environmental degradation, while China’s growing global involvement will lead to a co-operative approach to the competition for energy. The other extreme is to adopt a doom-and-gloom attitude: the economy will over-heat and blow up, the political system will collapse as the Communist Party proves unable to deal with the challenges fa cing it, the environment will poison the country, the banks will fail under the weight of bad debts, corruption will sap the regime, China will go to war over Taiwan, provoking a major conflict that could bring down the world economy. While those two solutions may have the appeal of offering clear-cut answers to the China puzzle, they are both, almost certainly, wrong. Or, rather, they each contain grains of truth, but simplify what is a very complex problem, to which the leadership in Beijing may well not have the answers. A great merit of Kerry Brown’s insightful book is that, as well as illustrating and analysing the problems, it lucidly explains why the issues – and the solutions – are so complex. That complexity may make them more difficult to grasp, but it is an st essential part of what makes up the China of the 21 century. This complexity stems from a broad set of factors, ranging from the nature of the system to geography and history. Too many accounts if China today starts as if the PRC had suddenly leaped fully-formed into its new guise with the reform programme Deng Xiaoping launched in 1978. But, to start with, it is impossible to understand China today without taking into account the complexities and lasting impact of the Cultural Revolution of 1966–78, as Dr Brown does in his original and stimulating account of that decade. China may have changed beyond recognition, at least in the cities and fast-growing regions, but the past always lurks in the background, and sometimes more up-front – Mao’s face still looks out over Tiananmen Square and from the postage stamps. Some problems from the recent past remain very much unsettled, notably the ‘three ts’ – Taiwan, Tibet and the leadership’s refusal to come to terms with what happened in Tiananmen Square in the spring and early summer of 1989. Above all, the way China is ruled has to be seen against a long historical inheritance of top-down power modulated by regional particularism. The economic gamble that Deng Xiaoping undertook in 1979 – that increased prosperity could provide a new legitimacy for the Communist party – was accompanied by a refusal to conduct an equivalent experiment