Hot Best Seller

The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression

Availability: Ready to download

From The New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Vulcans, an exploration of Chinese authoritarianism and Western capitalism In The China Fantasy, bestselling author James Mann examines the evolution of American policy toward China and asks, Does it make sense? What are our ideas and hidden assumptions about China? In this vigorous look at China’s political evolut From The New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Vulcans, an exploration of Chinese authoritarianism and Western capitalism In The China Fantasy, bestselling author James Mann examines the evolution of American policy toward China and asks, Does it make sense? What are our ideas and hidden assumptions about China? In this vigorous look at China’s political evolution and its future, Mann explores two scenarios popular among the policy elite. The Soothing Scenario contends that the successful spread of capitalism will gradually bring about a development of democratic institutions, free elections, independent judiciary, and a progressive human rights policy. In the Upheaval Scenario, the contradictions in Chinese society between rich and poor, between cities and the countryside, and between the openness of the economy and the unyielding Leninist system will eventually lead to a revolution, chaos, or collapse. Against this backdrop, Mann poses a third scenario and asks, What will happen if Chinese capitalism continues to evolve and expand but the government fails to liberalize? What then and why should this third scenario matter to Americans? Mann explores this alternate possibility and—in this must-read book for anyone interested in international politics—offers a startling vision of our future with China that will have a profound impact for decades to come.


Compare

From The New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Vulcans, an exploration of Chinese authoritarianism and Western capitalism In The China Fantasy, bestselling author James Mann examines the evolution of American policy toward China and asks, Does it make sense? What are our ideas and hidden assumptions about China? In this vigorous look at China’s political evolut From The New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Vulcans, an exploration of Chinese authoritarianism and Western capitalism In The China Fantasy, bestselling author James Mann examines the evolution of American policy toward China and asks, Does it make sense? What are our ideas and hidden assumptions about China? In this vigorous look at China’s political evolution and its future, Mann explores two scenarios popular among the policy elite. The Soothing Scenario contends that the successful spread of capitalism will gradually bring about a development of democratic institutions, free elections, independent judiciary, and a progressive human rights policy. In the Upheaval Scenario, the contradictions in Chinese society between rich and poor, between cities and the countryside, and between the openness of the economy and the unyielding Leninist system will eventually lead to a revolution, chaos, or collapse. Against this backdrop, Mann poses a third scenario and asks, What will happen if Chinese capitalism continues to evolve and expand but the government fails to liberalize? What then and why should this third scenario matter to Americans? Mann explores this alternate possibility and—in this must-read book for anyone interested in international politics—offers a startling vision of our future with China that will have a profound impact for decades to come.

30 review for The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression

  1. 4 out of 5

    Troy Parfitt

    In 'The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression,' author James Mann paints a portrait of the forest that has been obscured by the trees. Despite three and a half decades of catch phrases ("engagement," "integration," etc.) and speech after rhetoric-filled speech made by US presidents and secretaries of state alluding to free market reform’s leading to political reform, China is still run by a ruthless Leninist clique and there is no evidence to suggest this will change in In 'The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression,' author James Mann paints a portrait of the forest that has been obscured by the trees. Despite three and a half decades of catch phrases ("engagement," "integration," etc.) and speech after rhetoric-filled speech made by US presidents and secretaries of state alluding to free market reform’s leading to political reform, China is still run by a ruthless Leninist clique and there is no evidence to suggest this will change in the foreseeable future. They say the best books tell you what you already know and perhaps that's why I enjoyed this forceful, well-documented, and relentlessly logical little tome. Although it's easy to see that Western leaders are now kowtowing to Beijing in order maintain trade, Mann helps to fill in quite a few blanks. He points out, for example, that China analysts based in the US are often sponsored by the very corporations that need America's citizenry to believe in the "China fantasy." Mann also asks some very tough questions, such as: if China is still an autocracy in two or three decades will that a.) mean that "engagement" (or whatever they call it in the future) will have failed? And b.) Will it really be in the US's best interest to still be dealing with such a government at that time? I thought this book was excellent, but I wish it had been a little wider in scope. Mann plots the history of China-US relations but only goes as far back as the Nixon years. I believe that America's belief that change in China is inevitable is rooted in the Roosevelt years when the country was taken in by Chiang Kai-shek's conversion to Christianity and the tireless campaign of his Macon, Georgia educated (and Christian, of course) wife Soong Mei-ling. I also think that the author should have widened the scope beyond the US. For example, in Canada, demonstrators who assembled to protest a visit by Jiang Zemin were pepper sprayed by the national police acting under direct order from the (Liberal Party) prime minister, Jean Chretien. In England, there were similar incidents when protesters had their signs unlawfully confiscated, also during a visit from Jiang. Jiang berated his hosts for not being able to control their own populace before paradoxically demanding to know whether he "looked like a dictator." Members of the British government and royal family made this up to Jiang later by singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in his honor. Perhaps the author believed that such examples (he gives many examples of American complicity and naivety) would dilute his argument, but if done well it could have reinforced it. In any event, one wonders just how far backward Western leaders and decision makers are willing to bend in order to accommodate what is, after all, a totalitarian state. Time will tell.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Brief and mostly on-target skewering of the perverse logic employed by elite pundits and the foreign policy industrial complex inside the Beltway to excuse the behavior of China's ruling communists. I imagine this book didn't win Mann many friends in DC, but his indignation is well articulated here and justified. Brief and mostly on-target skewering of the perverse logic employed by elite pundits and the foreign policy industrial complex inside the Beltway to excuse the behavior of China's ruling communists. I imagine this book didn't win Mann many friends in DC, but his indignation is well articulated here and justified.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    James Mann vs. Straw men. In this wisp of a book, Mann argues that China watchers in the U.S. blindly argue that China will eventually democratize, either because they underestimate the barriers to democracy, or because they have financial incentives that encourages them to advocate that China will eventually change. The problems with this book are numerous. First, in my observations of China watchers, few actually have the beliefs he superficially describes here. Most academics, lawyers, and go James Mann vs. Straw men. In this wisp of a book, Mann argues that China watchers in the U.S. blindly argue that China will eventually democratize, either because they underestimate the barriers to democracy, or because they have financial incentives that encourages them to advocate that China will eventually change. The problems with this book are numerous. First, in my observations of China watchers, few actually have the beliefs he superficially describes here. Most academics, lawyers, and gov't officials who have dedicated themselves to the study of China have nuanced views which take into account the complexity and contradictions of modern China. Second, he doesn't offer any alternatives. If we should not hold out hope that trade and engagement with China will lead to political reform, what are the policy alternatives? What is the alternative to engagement? Should we treat China like North Korea or Burma? Our restrictions in engagement with those countries have stifled political change, not encouraged it. The best thing I can say about this book is that if you are college freshmen taking a US-China Relations class, and you have not attended any lectures or done any reading all semester, and you only have an hour to study before your final exam, then read this book. It might give you enough of an overview to get a passing grade.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fernando Gros

    This short book is a helpful, if somewhat repetitive, rant against some of the ways China and Chinese foreign policy is covered, especially with regards to US-China relations. Mann argues that much of the policy of engagement towards China depends goes on the assumption China will inevitably liberalise its social and political policies, that rule of law will naturally flow from protection of corporate rights to protection of civil rights, even though there's little evidence for either of these t This short book is a helpful, if somewhat repetitive, rant against some of the ways China and Chinese foreign policy is covered, especially with regards to US-China relations. Mann argues that much of the policy of engagement towards China depends goes on the assumption China will inevitably liberalise its social and political policies, that rule of law will naturally flow from protection of corporate rights to protection of civil rights, even though there's little evidence for either of these things being actual trends. Written before the 2008 Olympics much of the tone of this book still feels apt. Its best moments are the summaries and surveys of successive US administrations, from Nixon to W. Bush, and their policies towards China. But, this book is only a survey and introduction and despite being short, it's still alarmingly repetitive at many points where a slight deeper analysis and more examples especially from within China, might have helped.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ww

    As a Chinese who believes in Democracy, I found this book revealed what China is and what Chinese goverment is more close to the truth than the most western books or press have done so far.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Feng Ouyang

    The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression By James Mann This book analyzes the US-China policy and the reasons behind it. Despite its rapid economic growth, China remains a one-party political system and practices harsh suppression of political dissidents. There are two common expectations of China in the US: China will either automatically advance towards democracy as it modernizes its economy or it will inevitably approach a political crisis, from which a new, democratic The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression By James Mann This book analyzes the US-China policy and the reasons behind it. Despite its rapid economic growth, China remains a one-party political system and practices harsh suppression of political dissidents. There are two common expectations of China in the US: China will either automatically advance towards democracy as it modernizes its economy or it will inevitably approach a political crisis, from which a new, democratic political system will emerge. These expectations form the foundation of the China policy in the US, which is encouraging and assisting China’s economic growth and its integration into the world order. The author contends that these expectations are unfounded. Instead, the author thinks a third outcome is more likely: China will keep growing stronger economically while maintaining its suppressive one-party political system. Such an outcome is not only sad for the Chinese people but also dangerous to the world order and the democratic vision of the US. With its ambition of becoming a world-class power play, China is and will continue to ally with dictators in the world and serve as a counterexample to the democratic vision. The author further analyzed the reason for the misguided US-China policy. Unlike other foreign policies, China policy traditionally has been controlled by the presidents and their top advisors. Congress has little power over China policy. The author contends that the presidents are driven more by geopolitical and business concerns and overlook human rights issues. Furthermore, many policymakers and public intellectuals also have personal interests (consulting firms or direct business) in a close China-US economic cooperation. They don’t want to rock the boat with political and human rights issues. The second reason is that the US public and its representatives are significantly misinformed about China. They have contacts only with China’s urban elites, whose interest aligns with the ruling party. The voice of rural Chinese is not heard. Such misinformation is further acerbated by the Chinese Government’s control of home media and manipulation of international press. People do not understand that China’s openness in economic activities and urban lifestyles is not and will not be extended to its political life. A case in point is hedge fund manager Eric Li’s viral Ted Talk, which describes the Chinese Communist Party as an ideology-free, well-designed and well-tuned executive machine. The third reason is that people are fooled by the appearance that China is “progressing” towards the Western political norm. In fact, although there has been a lot of change in China in the past decades, the core interest and core belief of the Communist Party has never changed. They never relaxed their control over public speech and public association. And they will not hesitate to use violence to crack down any resistance, as they did in 1989. The book was written in 2007, where the US-China relationship was very warm compared with today. In the past two years, the US-China relationship took a nosedive, an important reason being that more US policymakers realize that their hope of “automatic changes” in the Chinese political system is but a pipedream. Such change of heart aligns with the author’s view, although this book does not talk about other critical issues such as intellectual property theft, cyber attacks, and unfair trade practices. While a new consensus about China is forming, the question remains: why have we been wrong for so long? I think this book provides some observations and thoughts that help us to answer that question. This book focuses not on China but on the US policymakers. The author has an accurate understanding of China, yet does not rely on detailed information from China. Instead, the author provided many logical arguments and juxtapositions to support his positions. On the other hand, the author provides an excellent recount of the evolution of US-China policy and the key US players. Therefore, whether or not you agree with the author’s view of China, you would find this book intellectually enjoyable. Detailed notes below: This book was written in 2007 • Focus of the book o Look at how US elites see China. o The author was an LA Times China bureau chief. He later focuses on Asian affairs and became a writer. • The Third Scenario o Two scenarios the West expects  With economic development, China will adopt West political systems.  China will continue to be a dictatorship and eventually crash. o The third scenario: China will continue its economic development without political freedom. o There are hopes that China will change. But they are false.  Just because more and more Chinese adopting a Western lifestyle and use Western goods, it doesn’t mean they would want or get Western political systems.  Many people are encouraged by the evolution of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan and hope China will follow the same path to democracy. But China is different. • Unlike the other countries, China does not depend on the US for its defense and economy. Therefore, it is not subjective to US pressure as the other counties did. • China is much larger. Economic modernization only affects the coastal cities, representing a tiny portion of the Chinese population.  There is opening up at the grassroots level. People are freer to speak privately. Media needs to provide transparency in financial news to facilitate the stock market. However, there is no way to have organized speech that would impact political directions. Media commentaries on political affairs are strictly controlled. Even with the Internet bringing news from the world, Chinese news is still tightly controlled.  Grassroot level electrons (at the village level) were implemented in the late 1980s. However, such elections will not grow into national elections, because people are not allowed to organize campaigns and political parties. Without organization, campaigns are not scalable.  Rule by law has made significant progress in China. However, the Government still has a free hand in suppressing dissidents. o A dictatorship and economically strong China does not necessarily mean war with the U.S. After all, China, despite its rapid growth, is still far behind the U.S. in military power. o However, an authoritarian China is still a bad thing  It is bad for the Chinese people. Some say Chinese people don’t want democracy anyway. This is not true. Otherwise, the Chinese government won’t need to suppress speeches advocating democracy.  It brings instability to China, which may ripple to the world. Power transfer and policy-making in an authoritarian regime are unpredictable and may be unpeaceful.  It works against the global trend of democracy. China routinely supports other dictatorship regimes in the world. It also serves as an example showing democracy is not inevitable for economic growth. • Lexicons of dismissal o There are various terms the media and politicians use to dismiss criticism to China. They are pretty convincing, but I don’t record the details.  China bashing, anti-China, China-haters: this is a categorical dismissal of any debate. Furthermore, the Chinese Government does not equal China.  Cold war mentality: the US-China relationship is nowhere near the US-Soviet relationship in cold war. Plus, China was US ally in the cold war. So keep considering China as a strategic ally would be cold war mentality. Also, the end of the cold war does not make Leninism less harmful. If China still insists on following Leninism, then it is just as dangerous as the Soviet Union, cold war or not.  Don’t provoke China, don’t anger China, don’t be a trouble maker, don’t … These arguments are based on the assumption that if you are nice to China, it will be nice to you. This is not true.  Ideology. If you consider democracy as an ideology, then free trade is one, too. In fact, democracy may be closer to reality than free trade. o Why do US academics do not publicly criticize China, although some do privately?  China scholars have the memory of the McCarthy era and the excitement of the Nixon era. Therefore, it is easy for them to feel threatened if US-China relationship gets a downturn.  Their academic work aims to defend China. The latest defense was that although Chinese leadership may not intend to, or even resists, democracy, the latter is inevitable as a result of the market economy and international trade. Such a statement is unfalsifiable.  Dove China scholars have a siege mentality. They claim that powerful forces (manufacturer, union, defense industry, etc.) are promoting China threat theory and they are the minority. In reality, they have much more influence on US-China policy.  In infighting between the dove and hawk in China policy leaves the US government paralyzed in responding to China’s development. • The Starbucks Fallacy o People believe that as the middle-class gain power in China, they would want their share of political power and force the Communist Party to open up politically. But this won’t work in China.  There are many interest groups in China other than the middle class. They have complicated impacts on the middle class. Therefore, the Chinese middle class behaves differently from the rest of the world.  Chinese middle class is still very, very small in terms of the portion in population, although its absolute number is huge. The majority of the Chinese population is still rural and poor.  The communist party policy in China has always favored the cities. Now, in the market economy, Chinese cities also enjoy tremendous benefit from Government policies. Therefore, the urban elites would support the Communist Party based on their own economic interest. They won’t want general elections, where the rural people would prevail. Even in the case of the Communist Party losing power, the urban elites may ally with other dictators (e.g., the military) to protect their privileged position. o In America, most China scholars and tourists only have contact with Chinese in big cities. They do not have knowledge about what the rest of the Chinese thinks. o China policymakers also divide Chinese officials into dove and hawk. They view Chinese officials who want to enhance Sino-US relationship as their allies, ignoring the difference in fundamental political beliefs. o Many policymakers in the US, starting from Kisinger, have business interests with consulting firms or lobby firms that promote US-China business relationships. They know that their dove standing will be converted into financial gains after they quit government jobs. o Corporations exert a strong influence on China policy, based on their business imperatives. The business community in both countries prefer to perpetuate the one-party system status quo, which insured low-cost labor, lax environmental regulations, and stability. • The P-Factor o The P-factor refers to the practice that US president dictates the China policy, although Congress is usually involved in policy setting concerning other countries. o History of US presidents and their China policies.  Nixon to Reagan in the cold war period: China is viewed as a geopolitical partner against the Soviet Union. Human rights issues in China is often overlooked on the excuse that China is improving (however slowly and however behind the other Asian countries). US presidents held double standards between China and the Soviet Union concerning human rights and dissidents.  Bush: after the Tian An Men Square Massacre and the fall of the Soviet Union, one can no longer say we need China as a cold war partner and China is improving its human rights condition. However, after a short period of embargo, Bush returned to the track of “engagement.” The theory goes that if we isolate China, it can do very bad things such as exporting missile technology. The engagement became unconditional, so it does not have any leverage or influence.  Clinton: he decided to put business interest first. In exchange for access to the Chinese market, he abandoned the practice of linking most favored trading status with human rights records.  Bush: contrary to his call for global freedom and democracy, Bush turned a blind eye on China’s crackdown on dissidents. Although he is concerned about China’s potential economic and military power and labeled China is a strategic competitor, he did not pay attention to the human rights issues in China • Let the Games Begin o Western media has a long tradition of describing China as an exotic and remote place, as their readers have been thinking. Journalists have only a superficial understanding of China. o China masterfully deceives Western visitors and reporters. It makes them think China is going in the direction they hope for, without actual actions. o The 2008 Olympics is a show for this purpose (the book was written before the game). • Who’s Integration Whom? (Summary) o The current US-China policy is centered on “integration,” which is very similar to the “engagement” policy in the past. The US wants to help China to be admitted to world organizations and include China into the current world order. o The US is not prepared for the possibility that China will keep its current one-party political system for decades. o The “integration” can work in another way: China may change the world order. The integration itself already changed the world order, where democracy is just one of the options, and human rights don’t matter. Furthermore, China is actively supporting other dictators, further stalling the democracy movement. o The current US-China relationship is shaped by the elites of both countries, for the benefit of the elites: big corporations in the US and the urban middle class and party officials in China. The ordinary people are left holding the bag and paying the price. o Problems with the “change will come later” view is that it may be too late to impose any pressure if China keeps growing its economy while keeping the oppressive political system. There may be nothing we will be able to do to oppose it. o The China policy in the US is made by the elite and for the elite. There is very little public input due to lack of information. We need to change it. The interest of the American working class and the Chinese people should come into play in policy decisions. This is the purpose of this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Taylor

    A prescient 2007 book which anticipated China would not politically liberalize In 2019, it’s clear China autocracy has resilience. While it may liberalize, assuming it will magically is not longer possible. A good book to see how we got to where we are today

  8. 4 out of 5

    James G. Robertson

    I read this in two days and it's a great little book for the first four chapters. Once you come to the fifth, it turns from analyzing what others have said/speculated into speculation of the author themselves. The conclusion was also more of a complete book summary. Someone who didn't read it in a day or two may appreciate, but for someone who read it in a brief time span or is an attentive reader, it is just drags it out and repeats itself. I recommend skipping to the last section break in the I read this in two days and it's a great little book for the first four chapters. Once you come to the fifth, it turns from analyzing what others have said/speculated into speculation of the author themselves. The conclusion was also more of a complete book summary. Someone who didn't read it in a day or two may appreciate, but for someone who read it in a brief time span or is an attentive reader, it is just drags it out and repeats itself. I recommend skipping to the last section break in the conclusion if either of those fit you. Overall, a nice short read. 4/5 stars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Kinnear

    Contemporary US foreign policy towards China hangs on the assumption that economic liberalization will inevitably lead towards political liberalization and advances in human rights for Chinese citizens. Mann holds the contrarian opinion (at the time of writing in 2003) that this is neither a certainty, nor should we necessarily even expect this to happen. I would say that the past 15 years has proven Mann to be correct. Or, well, this opinion probably isn't contrarian among China watchers, but i Contemporary US foreign policy towards China hangs on the assumption that economic liberalization will inevitably lead towards political liberalization and advances in human rights for Chinese citizens. Mann holds the contrarian opinion (at the time of writing in 2003) that this is neither a certainty, nor should we necessarily even expect this to happen. I would say that the past 15 years has proven Mann to be correct. Or, well, this opinion probably isn't contrarian among China watchers, but it certainly isn't the narrative that we receive through our political leaders. Particularly fascinating was how Mann walks through each US presidential administration since Nixon, and explains how they bent various narratives to justify continued economic liberalization of China at the cost of human rights. Each president had their own strategy that suited the circumstances (Save HW Bush, who was only notable in that he couldn't find a good strategy during his tenure). Mann avoids discussing the benefits of economic liberalization - that since Deng Xioping reformed China's economy, the country has ushered in maybe one of the greatest improvements in standard of living for the largest number of people in the history of the world. He also avoids explaining what these human rights abuses were (they were legion, and continue today). This book is more of a pamphlet, albeit an interesting one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    A little gem. He wants to ask more questions than he answers, which feels like a service to the reader more than a lack of conviction on his part. To answer the unanswered question, it's because our political leaders are either rabidly corporatist (R) or somewhat corporatist (D) and big corporations don't care about Chinese democracy. Pretty simple, but he demolishes the assumptions and pieties that underlie any objections to that thesis as he goes along. A little gem. He wants to ask more questions than he answers, which feels like a service to the reader more than a lack of conviction on his part. To answer the unanswered question, it's because our political leaders are either rabidly corporatist (R) or somewhat corporatist (D) and big corporations don't care about Chinese democracy. Pretty simple, but he demolishes the assumptions and pieties that underlie any objections to that thesis as he goes along.

  11. 4 out of 5

    SmarterLilac

    A sobering look at semi-modern U.S. views on China's economy, 'politics,' and history. I put politics in scare quotes because as far as I can tell they still have one-party rule there and, as the author predicted, have not magically segued into a democracy in the ten years since this book was published. A sobering look at semi-modern U.S. views on China's economy, 'politics,' and history. I put politics in scare quotes because as far as I can tell they still have one-party rule there and, as the author predicted, have not magically segued into a democracy in the ten years since this book was published.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gary Ujifusa

    A bit dated but excellent book about our politics and China. It’s been a number of years since I’ve done business in China and I’m always surprised at how quickly I become insulated from the world.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sharene

    The book's central tenet the West's stated conviction that China will become a liberal democracy is a polite fiction is interesting and well argued The book's central tenet the West's stated conviction that China will become a liberal democracy is a polite fiction is interesting and well argued

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rennie

    Of course it was a fantasy to think China would embrace western democracy and really, why should they? If their system, by and large works for them, then who are we to say they should change. They have always had the long game in mind of small steps to becoming a global leader. With the economic growth they have had, largely at our expense, they have attained that goal. There were a lot of overt and covert incentives to encourage government leaders, academics and the media to be positive about C Of course it was a fantasy to think China would embrace western democracy and really, why should they? If their system, by and large works for them, then who are we to say they should change. They have always had the long game in mind of small steps to becoming a global leader. With the economic growth they have had, largely at our expense, they have attained that goal. There were a lot of overt and covert incentives to encourage government leaders, academics and the media to be positive about China. Our leaders listened to corporations who wanted to move jobs there and sell products there. We in turn, took off our thinking caps and were happy to buy 10 cheap shirts made by cheap labour and not wonder what jobs would be left here to contribute to our tax base, keep our economy strong by generating income for Canadians - or think about industries we really need to have onshore - like PPE and medications. A perfect storm of willful blindness leading to a situation working really well for rich people in both countries while the manufacturing opportunities for the working class here are shrinking leaving them with diminished trust in their leaders and much less confidence in their future. For Canadian, Claws of the Panda is a revealing critique of the long game played in our country.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Jim is great at not giving into consensus views, and lays the foundation for the argument that either economic development does not lead to political liberalization generally, or at least that the conditions were bent in China’s case because of the size of its market that allowed the one-party state to bend the rules in its favor

  16. 4 out of 5

    Zack Hodges

    A current affairs book that actually does an above usual job of not simply summarizing events. It places the events and actions of America within a larger historical/political framework that allows for more critical critique regardless of if you agree or disagree with the books summarizing claim(s)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Poppenk

    Describing how we in the west think about China, it essentially purports that everything assumed about China's development and its effect on political culture is wrong. Describing how we in the west think about China, it essentially purports that everything assumed about China's development and its effect on political culture is wrong.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ellison

    Written in 2007 this is a collection of thoughts/feelings/ beliefs/ opinions about how to deal with China, a mess. We need their prison camp-made products and they kill at will.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dirk

    Would love to see an update chapter or two on the last 12 years

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hermes

    According to Mr. Mann there are two popular scenarios about the development of the world’s largest state and the world’s second largest economy. Either will China collapse under the contradictions of Chinese society, or China will evolve towards democracy, free elections, an independent judiciary, and human rights. This is what Mr. Mann calls the “soothing scenario”. Proponents of the soothing scenario point at the long term, and simply consider any proof of China’s repression as a temporary setb According to Mr. Mann there are two popular scenarios about the development of the world’s largest state and the world’s second largest economy. Either will China collapse under the contradictions of Chinese society, or China will evolve towards democracy, free elections, an independent judiciary, and human rights. This is what Mr. Mann calls the “soothing scenario”. Proponents of the soothing scenario point at the long term, and simply consider any proof of China’s repression as a temporary setback. Visitors to China often restrict themselves to the big coastal cities, where they mistake skyscrapers, conversations with taxi drivers, and Starbucks as signs that “they” are already just like “us” (i.e. Americans), allowing Mr. Mann to repeat a quote from Senator Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska that “with God’s help, we will lift Shanghai up and up until it is just like Kansas city”. Those expecting an upheaval often point at the many protests and riots, ethnic strife, unequal distribution of the newly created wealth, ecological disasters, and corruption. However, Mr. Mann advocates a third scenario: the continuation of the current regime. He gives various reasons for this. The riots and strikes are often isolated given China’s size, and the country has a long history of holding itself together. I think he could very well be right. Although the global trend seems definitely towards more democracy and transparency due to the rise of the middle class and the opportunities for information exchange offered by the internet (transparency being one of the most fashionable words of the decade among political and business talking heads), there seem to be few cracks visible in the system that could not be repaired. And most of all, the state is bringing home the cha siu: it is delivering an improvement in the standard of living of as many as the world has ever seen (albeit not uniformly among all Chinese, and certainly not in an efficient manner). Mr. Mann points to the fact that the Leninist structure is still in place completely. He does not believe China will evolve like South Korea or Taiwan. Its scale is vastly different, and China can resist pressure from the outside much easier, as it does not need America to support its national defence. He also points at China’s increasing sophistication to combine economic openness with political repression. In that way, you could somewhat compare China to Singapore in the days of Harry Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore has opened up since then, and the People’s Action Party is still in power. Unfortunately, Mr. Mann does not make this comparison. Mr. Mann gives three arguments why we should care about political development. These are the right of the Chinese people to choose their own government, the instability of communist regimes in the long run, and the support China gives to all kinds of rogue regimes in the world. The analysis only takes the first 29 pages of the book. The rest is devoted to how the “soothing scenario” was adopted by America’s governing and business elite. I doubt this surprises many people, as it offers profit-opportunities for the business elite and allows for inaction by the political leadership that also profits from any increase in national wealth brought by trade. Mr. Mann discusses and dismisses the various arguments brought forward against trouble makers, and the continuity of China policy among the administrations since Nixon’s. He also gives some examples of how the Chinese government sometimes just tell Western delegations what they want to hear, while no follow up is given to such “initiatives”. All in all, the subject would have merited more analysis than given in this book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    This book argues that US policy and business involvement in China has been predicated on a fantasy - that China over time will become more democratic and therefore follow a model like South Korea or Taiwan. The book - written in 2007 before the Olympics - predicts a crackdown before the Olympics and lack of tolerance for dissent which was strikingly like what actually happened. The book argues that the dynamics in China are much different than elsewhere. The middle class in the cities has little This book argues that US policy and business involvement in China has been predicated on a fantasy - that China over time will become more democratic and therefore follow a model like South Korea or Taiwan. The book - written in 2007 before the Olympics - predicts a crackdown before the Olympics and lack of tolerance for dissent which was strikingly like what actually happened. The book argues that the dynamics in China are much different than elsewhere. The middle class in the cities has little interest in democracy because of the predominant rural population who would outvote them. One by one the author tears down other arguments that China will move towards democracy. Instead of China evolving towards a democracy, the book argues that it could be a continuing model of a repressive state which is successful economically. The author is particularly critical of China hands and specialists in the US who have "spun" a story about China changing which is not true. What do I make of this book? It is certainly true that there is not a Western concept of individual liberty in China but instead a concept of greater social good. If you go to remote rural areas there may be electricity or other developments you would not likely see in some democracies at similar levels of development. A lot of the investments are long-term in nature, investments you would not see in parliamentary democracies. In such an ideology, opposing the state is seen as morally wrong. The core point is that there are two different systems and there is no reason for the Chinese system to evolve towards the US/European ones. It is certainly important to understand this is a different model. On the other hand, I thought the author was overly critical of the political philosophy - it has brought a generation out of poverty and has had many successes and despite its weaknesses, it has strengths.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    I was really psyched up to read this because the Nation and Times gave it such great reviews... Unfortunately it is written for aliens, who just landed on our planet and need to know things. Like, What China Is. Things like that. I recommend reading the first page of each chapter, and nothing more. The good news: If you are irrationally obsessive like me and can't do that, the whole shabang is only about 150 pages long and you can read most of it in your sleep. So it shouldn't monopolize too much I was really psyched up to read this because the Nation and Times gave it such great reviews... Unfortunately it is written for aliens, who just landed on our planet and need to know things. Like, What China Is. Things like that. I recommend reading the first page of each chapter, and nothing more. The good news: If you are irrationally obsessive like me and can't do that, the whole shabang is only about 150 pages long and you can read most of it in your sleep. So it shouldn't monopolize too much of your precious reading time. I thought the most interesting section was the quick and dirty history of the executive branch's tradition of making excuses for the Chinese government's ongoing human rights violations. Everyone since Nixon is (if only superficially) implicated, including presidents we love to love, like Jimmy Carter. And, I like the idea of the P-Factor. Note: This book taught me that I appreciate footnotes. Raging platitudes and vague generalizations about "what the Chinese bourgeoisie wants" seem meaningless without some statistics. Or quotations. Or credit given. Throw me a bone.

  23. 4 out of 5

    William Shoemaker

    Mann's book boldly throws light on the United States' culpability in the Chinese Communist's Party's uncanny longevity since 1949 as the sole political party allowed any clout in the People's Republic of China. This is one of the most informed and plugged-in China journalists giving an unvarnished account of the incestuous relationship between elites in China and America--and their coordinated repression of lower-class Americans and Chinese (this is class warfare, inverted). A lot of people in a Mann's book boldly throws light on the United States' culpability in the Chinese Communist's Party's uncanny longevity since 1949 as the sole political party allowed any clout in the People's Republic of China. This is one of the most informed and plugged-in China journalists giving an unvarnished account of the incestuous relationship between elites in China and America--and their coordinated repression of lower-class Americans and Chinese (this is class warfare, inverted). A lot of people in academia, business and politics would be very unhappy if this book became as popular as it should be, because it would threaten the repressive Leninist regime (Mann's way of referring to the CCP) on which so many of them rely to do their business--and to which so many of us give our implicit support by failing to acknowledge how truly ugly this system is. Recommended to all China watchers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    James Mann describes, in no uncertain terms, how the U.S. makes excuses for China's repressive regimes. Despite the positive changes made in the U.S. - China relationship since the Nixon Presidency, the author points out how and why China shouldn't be trusted, and is far from a democratic state. He also points out why he feels our Government and businesses are wrong to put so little pressure on China to expand human rights, and how we as a people are not getting the true story regarding the dang James Mann describes, in no uncertain terms, how the U.S. makes excuses for China's repressive regimes. Despite the positive changes made in the U.S. - China relationship since the Nixon Presidency, the author points out how and why China shouldn't be trusted, and is far from a democratic state. He also points out why he feels our Government and businesses are wrong to put so little pressure on China to expand human rights, and how we as a people are not getting the true story regarding the dangers of China.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Very important book about China and the potential for democracy there (or lack thereof). Mann takes on the current dominant theories about how China will either democratize slowly or suddenly sometime in the near future and outlines a Third Scenario -- that it will remain authoritarian for years to come. Why is this important? The Third Scenario is something U.S. leaders deny or have not prepared for at all. Mann's writing style makes this book an easy and quick read. Very important book about China and the potential for democracy there (or lack thereof). Mann takes on the current dominant theories about how China will either democratize slowly or suddenly sometime in the near future and outlines a Third Scenario -- that it will remain authoritarian for years to come. Why is this important? The Third Scenario is something U.S. leaders deny or have not prepared for at all. Mann's writing style makes this book an easy and quick read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Galamaga

    Interesting, quick read and a good, basic primer on the topic. I also liked they fact that it seemed to avoid partisanship and spread "blame" and credit around equally. Two takeaways: 1. If you want to know what really motivates foreign policy, ignore all of the fluffy talk about human rights, democracy etc. and follow the money. 2. American policymakers/people continue to make the mistake of assuming that other countries/cultures think they way we do and really screw things up. Interesting, quick read and a good, basic primer on the topic. I also liked they fact that it seemed to avoid partisanship and spread "blame" and credit around equally. Two takeaways: 1. If you want to know what really motivates foreign policy, ignore all of the fluffy talk about human rights, democracy etc. and follow the money. 2. American policymakers/people continue to make the mistake of assuming that other countries/cultures think they way we do and really screw things up.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    The author had a lot of on-the-ground, non-think-tank experience in China, and the book is mercifully short. It clearly lays out the central tensions in China today and why opening up the country to capitalism is not a surefire remedy for lack of democracy. If he occasionally lapsed into a more-of-a-Chinese-scholar-than-thou tone, I suppose it can be forgiven.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tully

    Mann presents a basic everyday example of consumer capitalism's easy congruence with the politics of evil. This was probably not his intention, actually---he's based at CSIS---but it comes thru anyway and is valuable. If he's weakest on what model of "engagement" should replace our current optimistic delusion, it's b/c our own country is so thoroughly lost to the power of capital. Mann presents a basic everyday example of consumer capitalism's easy congruence with the politics of evil. This was probably not his intention, actually---he's based at CSIS---but it comes thru anyway and is valuable. If he's weakest on what model of "engagement" should replace our current optimistic delusion, it's b/c our own country is so thoroughly lost to the power of capital.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dora

    I know, hard to believe, but I was really interested in this book based on it's title, but either the subject isn't as exciting as I thought it would be or this is a boring book. Maybe both? Definitely not reading material for your commute, at the very least, not the way I wanted to end or start my day. I know, hard to believe, but I was really interested in this book based on it's title, but either the subject isn't as exciting as I thought it would be or this is a boring book. Maybe both? Definitely not reading material for your commute, at the very least, not the way I wanted to end or start my day.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jakob Bork

    James Mann seems to have understood contemporary China better than Henry Kissinger plus a host of other political realists, business people and commentators. Great book. I bought it in Hong Kong in 2008. In 2020 Chinese authorities began removing it from bookshops. Sad to see how correct James Mann was.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...