- An East Asian Challenge to Western Neoliberalism: Critical Perspectives on the "China Model" by Niv Horesh and Kean Fan Lim
A the core of this book is the question of whether China's rise is an economic and political (but not military) threat to Western neoliberalism or more benignly, a variant of East Asian development albeit successful and seeking a role in the world. Embedded in that question is the subquestion of whether there is a "China Model" and how it is similar or different from accepted notions of the East Asia developmental state.
Five substantive chapters address these questions from different vantage points. Each was published as an earlier article and then rewritten for this [End Page 269] volume. The authors say in the acknowledgments that they worked to make the arguments fit holistically as a book; however, there is still much work to be done by the reader to pull the main arguments and evidence together.
Nonetheless, the effort is worthwhile. The authors draw extensively on previous scholarly work, especially relating to interpretations of history, culture and economy, to put Chinese self-perceptions and policy into context. Except for the authors' original interpretation of the scholar Wang Huning's writings in chapter 3, most of the arguments are based on thinking through the implications of others' research to answer the questions the authors pose.
Chapter 2 focuses on China's rise as a global leader—or, more precisely, the narrative around China's aspirations for leadership. The authors ground their analysis in the historical roots of Confucianism in the Tang Dynasty. They argue that a new Confucian thought narrative bolsters political legitimacy at home and offers an alternative to the United States, specifically in terms of international relations. They emphasize the role of meritocracy, and the tendency for nonintervention outside of the Chinese sphere of influence, as foundational aspects of this narrative.
Oddly, the authors do not discuss the "century of national humiliation," which has also shaped much of China's foreign policy narrative. Chinese scholars and leaders have enmeshed China's 1839–1949 history of subjugation by foreign powers into theories, policies, and textbooks. Addressing how the national humiliation narrative conflicts with, or reinforces, the new spins on Confucianism would be a significant contribution to understanding China's attempt to return to the global stage.
Intellectuals influence the thinking of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) at the highest levels. Chapter 3 highlights several scholars on the spectrum of pro to anti-U.S., highlighting their views. No doubt, they have been influential at different times and with varying leaders. However, the bottom line is that there is no consensus at the highest levels of leadership in China about the benefits and costs of China's relationship with the U.S. Quoting the authors, this means that "Elite members of the CPC have never had a unitary perception of the U.S." (p. 52). Nevertheless, the takeaway from this chapter, and the book overall, is that the Chinese leadership is suspicious of the United States, sees it as a rival, and is actively building a narrative to counter it. Since Confucian discourse has replaced socialist theory per se, the authors conclude that it is likely that the Party will continue to shape China in ways contrary to those of Western values in order to maintain the legitimacy of the Party.
The last three chapters deal more concretely with characteristics of the East Asia development model and to what extent China has followed a similar path. Chapter 4 relates how China interacted with Singapore over the years, as leaders in China wanted to learn from Singapore's ability to combine strong central party politics with efficient global markets. However, the authors argue that [End Page 270] Singapore's resources and strategies were not compatible with China's. Furthermore, many of the projects Singapore brought to China failed precisely because...