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STUMBLING GIANT by Timothy Beardson

STUMBLING GIANT

The Threats to China's Future

By Timothy Beardson

Pub Date: May 21st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-300-16542-5
Publisher: Yale Univ.

A Hong Kong–based executive suggests that the dreaded Chinese juggernaut has a few cracks in its armor.

Some doubting Thomases of late have begun to wonder if China really has the stuff to run the world, and Beardson thinks they may have a point. He constructs a concise, readable, albeit finance-heavy roundup of Chinese successes and failures in order to assess its future potential. One important point he emphasizes is China’s habit of reverting to old models. From the Ming dynasty to Mao Zedong, he notes, rulers have responded to outside pressures by turning inward rather than opening to new currents, and any stress prompts reversion to the top-down method of control, extending to the most local level. Beardson examines the Chinese political, financial and social structures, backing up his determinations of their good and bad aspects with impressive research and analysis. The rapid growth of the Chinese economy over the last 30 years, he finds, has been dogged by such systemic problems as unemployment, currency snags, massive environmental degradation and an inability to sustain the old cheap-export/fixed-investment model. While a new, innovative model is urgently needed, bureaucratic inertia and lack of integrity inhibit Chinese institutions in nearly every field, most notably science, education and research. Plagiarism, corruption, a vulnerable financial system, income inequality, gender disparities, organized crime, military aggression against its neighbors and cyberaggression against the U.S. all undermine Chinese stability. The nation needs to step up responsibly to its world role and defuse the instinct among many wary countries to “check” it, but ultimately, Beardson concludes, “China is weak where it should be strong and strong where it should be weak.”

A thoughtful reconsideration of China's actual place in the new world order, based on reality rather than fanciful speculation.