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  • The Chinese Economic Renaissance: Apocalypse or Cornucopia?
  • Guanzhong James Wen (bio)
Dilip K. Das . The Chinese Economic Renaissance: Apocalypse or Cornucopia? New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. xxii, 520 pp. Hardcover $100, ISBN 978-0-230-21840-6.

Although this book was published two years ago, it is still of great relevance today. As the title of the book suggests, a significant split remains among academe and policy makers over the tough question of how to assess the impact of China's rise to preeminence. The author does a good job showing why the rise of China was inevitable. The basic reason is, of course, that China replaced its central planning system with a market-oriented system that has greatly enhanced efficiency in its resource allocation and greatly motivated its people to work hard. China also embraced free trade and direct foreign investment. With these institutional and policy changes, plus its sheer size and great potential, China is on its track to become the world's largest economy.

Among the many factors that contribute to China's economic success, first the author appraises China's gradualist and experimentalist approach to reform and to open up its own economic and social system (p. 5). Second, the author believes that the correct sequencing of reforms by starting from rural areas plays an important role in the smooth start of China's takeoff (p. 6). He also mentions pragmatism in promoting market-oriented liberalization and privatization (p. 8), successful mobilization of savings and investment (p. 11), fewer dependents due to strict family planning (pp. 14-15), and total factor productivity improvement [End Page 112] (pp. 16-19) deriving from, in the author's own words, "better resource allocation, skill upgradation and learning-by-doing" (p. 17).

However, China's rise to preeminence does create some concern and anxiety in the rest of the world, especially in the developed nations. As the author points out, "Global integration and rapid growth of the Chinese economy and its endeavors to move toward the center of the global economic stage is being referred to as the 'China syndrome' and 'China effect' in the industrial economies in a disapproving, if not disdainful, manner" (p. 25). According to Das, "China does seem well on its way to acquiring the status of an economic super power peacefully" (p. 32). By pointing out that "the 'China threat' assessment has been by and large retreating" (p. 33), the author seems to agree with Zheng Bijian, a Chinese strategic thinker from China's Central Party School known for his theory that the ascendancy of China will be inevitably peaceful.

One can only wish that the author's optimism prevails. However, suspicion about such optimism is not totally ungrounded. As recently as last spring and summer, China's strong reaction to the U.S. military support for South Korea in its dispute with North Korea and for Japan and the nations of Southeast Asia in their maritime disputes with China over islands in the East and South China seas might make the author's view look somewhat too optimistic. During that period, one almost wondered if the Cold War was returning with China and North Korea on one side and the United States and its Asian allies on the other. In addition to the military tension in the region, China's open hostility to the Nobel Prize Committee's decision in October of 2010 to make Liu Xiaobo, a prisoner under the Chinese law and one of China's most outspoken dissidents, a Nobel Peace laureate also shocked the world. However, the seemingly escalating hostility between China and the United States and its allies was followed by a high-profile visit to the United States by China's president, Hu Jintao. That the established and the rising superpowers seek conciliation and cooperation is good. However, the differences between the nations on human rights, trade imbalance, the foreign exchange rate, and many other issues remain to be resolved.

These recent critical turns and unexpected twists in China's relations to the United States and its allies are only a few examples of why predicting the future trajectory of China's journey to modernity and...


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pp. 112-117
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