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Why We Must Embrace China as a Partner or Face It as an Enemy

by Will Hutton

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2006
ISBN: 0-7432-7528-4
Publisher: Free Press

A middling effort at reconciling the interests of the Middle Kingdom and Middle America.

China and the U.S. regard each other with distrust and suspicion. Granted, China is a communist police state and the U.S. is a capitalistic behemoth; yet, writes British journalist Hutton (A Declaration of Interdependence, 2003, etc.), the countries benefit each other, with China responsible for having bettered the American standard of living through cheaper prices and the U.S. responsible for having provided China with its larger export window onto the outside world. Hutton notably argues that fewer American (and European) jobs have been lost to China than has been reported; of more importance, he stresses, is “the massive redistribution of income from the bottom 99 percent to the top 1 percent,” which impoverishes Western workers. The point Hutton makes is a useful one, but he also engages in wishful thinking by urging China to embrace Enlightenment values that have long “endowed western societies with the idea of the public realm” and of other democratic virtues, presumably through a European “model of capitalism that is more attractive than the American.” A multiparty system of government may be a desideratum for a better world, but it seems unlikely, as Hutton acknowledges, that the ever more conservative Central Committee will allow such a development willingly. Although the author hopes for cooperation and free trade, it seems more likely that the West and China will nurse political and economic rivalries for some time to come, given that Enlightenment values seem to be ever scarcer in many Western quarters, too.

Hutton’s exhortations seem best addressed to isolationists in both countries—an audience unlikely to be moved by them. For a more nuanced view, see James Kynge’s China Shakes the World (2006).