Lau gives a brief recap of China’s modern history and past, outlines the country’s current challenges and predicts where the “original superpower” is headed.
Although the title suggests a boundless, glowing optimism, one thing Lau cannot be accused of is being one-sided. Even while trumpeting China’s achievements—the rapid industrialization, the growing median income and standard of living of the Chinese people—the author takes an evenhanded look at the current and looming challenges for the country: the lack of technological innovation, excessive pollution and coming labor shortage. Far from a nationalistic screed, it’s often a balanced, realistic look at both the good and the bad. At other times, Lau seems to equate official government proclamations with taking real action. For example, while arguing that “China is taking serious steps to clean up its environment,” he cites not an actual instance of environmental clean-up, but the fact that “the construction of ecological civilization” was enshrined by the 17th Congress of 2007. For Lau—and for most Chinese, as he makes clear—official documentation holds an importance that Westerners have trouble grasping. Although he touches lightly on the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, Lau should be given some credit for even acknowledging it at all. In fact, the author goes out of his way to mention the growing protests in China—and then pages later naively states that “everyone in the country seems to agree” that stability is the top priority, even over certain individual freedoms taken for granted in many Western nations. Is the reader to think that the protesters Lau writes about also “seem to agree”? The initial historic overview is readable and informative and offers much insight into the corporatist nature of China’s leadership. The chapters on Sino-American relations, environmental issues, democracy and economic and social development in China will be of great value to anyone with even a passing interest in global politics. However, other chapters have the dry tone of an official policy document—merely reworded for a global audience.
A mixed bag—part hollow, jargon-y bureaucratic-speak, and part revealing, in-depth analysis.