Monday, June 30, 2008

The essential guide to China and the global economy...

We all have some ideas about what the motives and goals of the Chinese people and leadership are as they power themselves into a global economic and political force. We don't know the half of it.

James Kynge has written a guidebook for revising our thinking and prejudices of China. Early into China Shakes the World, I was struck by the depth of his familiarity with ordinary people and their lives as well those in positions of surprising power. His fluency in Mandarin, his long years living in China, and his impressive journalistic skills honed at the Financial Times combine for a book that is remarkable readable and insightful.

For example, most of us think the China success is simply the product of extremely cheap labor, but Kynge shows how Chinese business models drive their manufacturing processes far past equilibrium points that would cause Western managers to rethink. The strange and inconsistent government policies also are driven by a fixation on creating 25 million jobs a year - a formidible task. Employment, not profit is the first priority.

As eye-opening as the first part of the book is, it is his views on China's future that are most insightful. The intrinsic problems of socialist, one-party rule constitute a huge hurdle for continued growth, and China's hunger for raw materials shapes their foreign policy.

Kynge offers a clear set of choices China faces when dealing with the West, all of them problematic. He also details in stark terms the threats China may pose to our way of life.

It is the best geopolitical book I have read in years, remarkably free from ideology and rich in detail rarely available about this country and its people.

Better reviews here and here.

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