March 1, 2007

The China Fantasy

I bought a book yesterday called The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression by James Mann, and I'm finding it extremely enlightening.

James Mann is basically a China expert. He used to be Cheif of the Beijing Bureau for the LA Times and is now senior author in residence at the Centre for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) (according to Wikipedia). To put it crudely, he knows a fuck of a lot more about China than you or I do.

I haven't finished but he starts by laying out the two popular American misconceptions regarding China. One is that China is on the road to democracy, thanks to the United States doing business with them, and Chinese people are becoming "like us" because they can wear jeans and eat at McDonalds. The second is that China will soon become a miliary rival against the US. They both assume that China is changing. Mann insists that China is not changing like that. They're not becoming more democratic and they're probably not going to wage future war against the US. He constantly reminds the reader that China's countryside is far different and far more populous than it's cities.

I'm not going to spoil the whole book for you (because I haven't read it all yet) and I'm really dumbing it down right now so I'll leave it at that and encourage you to pick up a copy.

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