A mostly academic look at why China’s “rise” is only partial.

CHINA GOES GLOBAL

THE PARTIAL POWER

A formal, severe dressing-down of China’s global influence.

A prominent scholar of contemporary Chinese studies, Shambaugh (Political Science and International Affairs/George Washington Univ.; China’s Communist Party, 2008, etc.) fashions an academic framework on the state of Chinese global relations, concluding from ample evidence that China’s impact is far more limited than alarmist predictions have maintained. The historical Chinese sense of the nation’s centrality and superiority continues to create conflicts within and abroad. China has no allies, writes the author, rarely takes an active role in solving world problems and maintains a political system no one wants to emulate. Its “soft power” in terms of its cultural exports is weak, except perhaps in tourism, cyberhacking and art purchasing. The Chinese government’s conflicted sense of how to engage in the wider world is revealed in its sense of insularity, paranoia and desire to “hide its brightness” on the one hand, and need to take on wider global responsibilities as the world’s second largest economy on the other. Although an economic superpower, “a workshop of the world,” chiefly in exports of “low-end consumer products,” Shambaugh finds China’s “economic footprint” in terms of trade, energy and investment fairly limited. The author finds China admirably evolving from “passive actor to a selective activist” since the 1980s, yet it is still uncomfortable accepting “liberal norms” generally agreed on by other leading nations. Shambaugh examines in depth the various schools of thought about how to manage China over the decades—e.g., nativist, realist and globalist—and he asserts that the most effective approach is to continue to integrate China within the liberal institutional infrastructure of the international community.

A mostly academic look at why China’s “rise” is only partial.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-19-986014-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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