Former editor of the Observer and the South China Morning Post, Fenby (The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved, 2012, etc.) offers extensive analyses of today’s China and where the future may take it.
China, writes the author, is “a nation on speed,” having become the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter in just a few short decades. This remarkable growth has, of course, been a boon to China, but it also masks the many contradictions that may question the notion that China “can simply succeed if it wants to.” Fenby leaves very little out of his examination of China, exploring everything from regional development to the plight of migrant workers, from leadership struggles to the restless demands of an increasingly diverse society, from foreign policy to the role of the military. The author looks closely at the recent growth of manufacturing in China’s heretofore-stagnant hinterland, as well as at the cradle of China’s economic growth along its coastal urban centers. He explores the role of the government and the Chinese Communist Party in setting and implementing economic policy, especially the Party’s “control ethos,” in which “dissidence is equivalent to treason.” Fenby finds this to be China’s central problem: Without a liberalization of politics and the legal system able to address the problems of corruption, environmental devastation and inequality, China has no choice but to continue headlong into growth, exacerbating such contradictions. The author writes gracefully, but he may be taking on too much here with long exegeses on ancient and modern history, detailed biographies of leaders past and present, and in-depth accounts of Taiwan and Hong Kong—all of interest, but a bit overwhelming.
Ambitious, demanding (for readers) look at China and all its complexities.