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[ 180 ] asia policy China 2020: How Western Business Can—and Should—Influence Social and Political Change in the Coming Decade Michael A. Santoro Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009 • 162 pages author’s executive summary This book explores the effect of economic reform and prosperity on political reform and offers ways companies can operate with moral integrity in China. main argument China will follow one of two widely divergent paths in the coming decade: either continue to progress steadily toward greater prosperity, democracy, and respect for human rights or fall backward economically into an ever more authoritarian regime. China’s future will primarily be shaped by the decisions of the Communist Party and the actions of courageous Chinese citizens. Thebookargues,however,thatWesternbusinessescan—andshould—influence these developments. Moral integrity (or lack of it) by Western business will have a profound impact on whether economic privatization and growth will usher in greater democracy and respect for human rights. The book considers the moral and practical aspects of the activities of multinational corporations in four areas—worker rights, product safety, Internet freedom, and the rule of law. policy implications • The current symbiotic policy whereby Western nations and business people try to secure their interests through unquestioning engagement with the Chinese Communist Party is neither culturally sensitive nor wise. In fact, this policy is cynical, self-defeating, and even dangerous because it fails to take into account the very real possibility that China might devolve into an unstable, authoritarian regime where nationalist hostility is directed to foreigners and especially Westerners. • To avoid this dangerous scenario, and to increase the likelihood of prosperous economic relations and peaceful interaction with China, Western business and political leaders should promote the rule of law and respect for economic and political rights, product safety, and Internet freedom. • Product safety and Internet censorship should be given more prominence in the West’s trade relationship with China. [ 181 ] book reviews China 2020: A Call for Minor Reform, Not Radical Change Scott Kennedy A review of Santoro’s China 2020 Michael Santoro bills China 2020 as a clarion call to U.S. and European multinational companies (MNC) to more explicitly foster a just and democratic political system as they pursue profits in China. In reality, this siren sound amounts to little more than a polite honk of the horn. The mere existence of this work is a challenge to Santoro’s first book, Profits and Principles: Global Capitalism and Human Rights in China (2000), which argues that simply by engaging in their standard business practices, such as fair treatment of employees, MNCs were inherently a force for positive political change. Having found that China is still not a democracy and is unlikely to become one soon, and that MNCs are not always models of good behavior, Santoro adopts the posture of a schoolmaster, lecturing companies on how to be true to their better selves. To his credit, Santoro holds a light up to the embarrassing and irresponsible activities that MNCs have practiced in order to shave costs and stay in the good graces of Beijing and local authorities. Most enlightening is the discussion of the inadequate policing of poor working conditions among Chinese subcontractors and the failure to ensure safe and consistently quality products from local chemical and pharmaceutical companies up the supply chain. Yet as the story turns toward resolving such dilemmas, the argument quickly loses its original force. The most significant problem is that many MNCs are already practicing what Santoro’s book preaches. The chapter on sweatshops finds that corporate social responsibility initiatives, which MNCs have adopted in response to pressure from NGOs, have already achieved “some marginal improvements for workers on a significant scale” (p. 33) and that the AllChina Federation of Trade Unions is showing signs of becoming a genuine advocate for workers. The chapter on drug safety notes positively that at least some Western pharmaceutical firms have begun conducting detailed audits of their domestic suppliers. After caving into the authorities’ demands over self-censorship and disclosing some user identities, Santoro praises Western Internet firms for forming the Global Network Initiative and adopting scott kennedy is Associate Professor and Director of the Research Center for Chinese Politics and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
p. 181
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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