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The Coming Collapse of China
ISBN 037550477X / 9780375504778 / 0-375-50477-X
Publisher Random House
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From 1978 through the mid-1990s, China had the fastest-growing economy in the world, and it appeared poised to dominate Asia, and beyond, in the near future. But after focusing on facts rather than theory and looking at the conditions behind the spectacular numbers, Gordon Chang presents the People's Republic as a study in wasted potential: "Peer beneath the surface, and there is a weak China, one that is in long-term decline and even on the verge of collapse. The symptoms of decay are to be seen everywhere." For a nation that has always taken a long view of history, time is quickly running out. Chang believes China has about five years to get its economy in order before it suffers a crippling financial collapse--a timeline he seriously doubts can be met.
By failing to complete its reformation, China has maintained an illusion of progress, Chang explains, but in reality has caused more problems than opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs and foreign investors. Because reform has not been fast enough or comprehensive enough, China is unable to benefit from its modernization or keep up technologically with much of the world. The government's reluctance to get rid of state-owned enterprises has not only rendered China uncompetitive just as it prepares to join the World Trade Organization, but is causing the banks--which were forced to lend money to SOEs--to fail alongside them. Widespread unemployment, corruption within the Communist party, millions of resentful peasants, and a general lack of leadership further threaten stability. The Communist party "knows how to suppress but it no longer has the power to lead," Chang writes, arguing that the party is maintaining control only through the use of brute force and the people's instinct for obedience--popular support that could deteriorate as soon as the economy plunges. Simultaneously, societal ills such as gambling, drugs, and prostitution have become huge problems.
Stuck between Communism and capitalism, "China is drifting, unwilling to go forward as fast as it must and unable to turn back." It is uncertain what will be in the way when the giant finally falls. --Shawn Carkonen [via]