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The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repressionby James Mann
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"James Mann is a distinguished journalist and historian who covered China for the Los Angeles Times; his 1999 book, 'About Face,' was a first-rate account of the troubled path of U.S.-Chinese relations after President Richard M. Nixon's decision to open contacts with the communist government, and his 2004 best-seller, 'Rise of the Vulcans,' explored President Bush's war cabinet. In 'The China Fantasy,'... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) he now adds polemicist to his resume. As this angry, lively little book makes clear, Mann has had enough! His main target is all those American policymakers — aided and abetted by big business, the media and Beltway think tanks — who have sold a bill of goods to the American people. Since Nixon first made his historic trip to Beijing in 1972, Mann charges, American elites have dispensed soothing and dangerously misleading nostrums to the public. Yes, China under the control of the Communist Party is somewhat authoritarian — even, if you want to be rude, a totalitarian state. But that state of affairs, Americans are reassured, can't last forever. At some point, perhaps quite soon, China's dramatic economic development will inevitably lead to democracy as its growing middle class demands more rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, and confusingly, comes a set of warnings that China is more fragile than it seems and that if we don't all handle it with kid gloves, it could collapse into chaos and civil war, as it has done so often before. Consequently, Mann argues, foreign critics of China's human rights abuses are told not to be so outspoken. After all, there is no point in hurting Chinese feelings or making the Chinese authorities dig in their heels. Mann is particularly scathing about what he describes as the 'Lexicon of Dismissal.' Criticism of China is dismissed as 'bashing,' 'provocative' or 'anti-China' (a favorite of the Chinese themselves), and any such censure always runs the risk of turning China into an enemy. In his anger over this muzzling trend, Mann comes close to seeing a conspiracy by well-meaning but self-serving American elites — with, of course, the happy acquiescence of the Chinese communists — to keep the United States investing in and trading with China. 'The China Fantasy' raises an awkward and important question: What if there is a third alternative between the rise of democracy and the collapse of China's political order? What if that alternative is the survival of the one-party state, with all its apparatus of control and repression? In an era when capitalists can join the party built by Mao, the Chinese communists have already shown how adept they are at changing their spots. What would it mean for the United States — and, indeed, the world — if 20 or 30 years from now a much richer and more powerful China proved to be every bit as authoritarian a state as it is today? What if that China were one in which the middle classes decided, much as they did in Hitler's Germany, to opt for stability and prosperity over democracy? Mann thinks that scenario highly likely, even if he does not share the alarmist view now taking root in some Washington circles that China is going to challenge the United States militarily. His concern is both that an undemocratic China is bad for the Chinese themselves and that it will be bad for the world, giving comfort and even support to other unsavory regimes as it already does to that of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. What seems to outrage him most, though, is that the American people are going to go on being deceived. Like all good polemics, this one raises more questions than it answers. Can the Chinese Communist Party, which now numbers some 70 million people, really be as monolithic or as cunning as he suggests? Is the American establishment really of one mind on China? Is there no possibility of the Chinese middle classes, or at least part of them, joining forces with the country's long-suffering peasants to push for greater democracy? We will have to wait and see, but, in the meantime, Mann has done a fine job of making sure that we won't do so complacently. Margaret MacMillan is provost of Trinity College and professor of history at the University of Toronto. She is the author of 'Paris 1919' and, most recently, 'Nixon and Mao: The Week That Changed the World.'" Reviewed by Howard NormanMichael DirdaJohn McQuaidMargaret MacMillan, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
The New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Vulcans blasts America's policy regarding the world's most populous country
One of our most perceptive China experts, James Mann has penned a vital wake-up call to all who are ignorant of America's true relationship with the Asian giant. Our leaders may posit a China drawn to increasing liberalization through the power of the free market, but Mann asks us to consider a very real alternative: What if China's economy continues to expand but its government remains as dismissive of democracy and human rights as it is now? Calling for an end to the current policy of overlooking China's abuses for the sake of business opportunities, Mann presents a must-read book for anyone interested in global affairs.
Bestselling author Mann examines American policy toward China and asks, RDoes it make sense?S In this look at China's political evolution and future, he offers a startling vision of the West's relationship with China that will have a profound impact for decades to come.
About the Author
James Mann is author in residence at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and the author of Rise of the Vulcans, About Face, and Beijing Jeep. He was previously the Los Angles Times Beijing bureau chief.
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History and Social Science » Politics » International Studies
History and Social Science » Politics » United States » Foreign Policy