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Postcards From Tomorrow Square : Reports From China (09 Edition)by James Fallows
Synopses & ReviewsPlease note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.
“Americans need not be hostile toward China's rise, but they should be wary about its eventual effects. The United States is the only nation with the scale and power to try to set the terms of its interaction with China rather than just succumb. So starting now, Americans need to consider the economic, environmental, political, and social goals they care about defending as Chinese influence grows.”
—from “China Makes, the World Takes”
Since December 2006, The Atlantic Magazine's James Fallows has been writing some of the most discerning accounts of the economic and political transformation occurring in China. The ten essays collected here cover a wide-range of topics: from visionary tycoons and TV-battling entrepreneurs, to environmental pollution and how China subsidizes our economy. Fallows expertly and lucidly explains the economic, political, social, and cultural forces at work turning China into a world superpower at breakneck speed. This eye-opening and cautionary account is essential reading for all concerned not only with China's but America's future role in the world.
People who write about China fall into two categories: the ones who like it simple — China's going to take over the world, it's going to collapse, China is Bad!, China is Good! — and the ones who revel in the mind-boggling variety of the place. For the most part, the conversation on China in this country is dominated by the simplifiers. Whether enthusiasts or bashers, they traffic in the same sound... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) bytes — that China, as opportunity or threat, is bigger than life. Veteran journalist and former U.S. News & World Report editor James Fallows moved to China in 2006 fully aware of the dangers of writing on China and fully committed to unpacking the complexity of the most populous nation on Earth. The result, "Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China," a collection of 13 essays, 12 of which were previously published in the Atlantic, is an attempt to wrest the American conversation about China away from the simplifiers. Underlying Fallows' work in China is a belief that if we don't get China right, we're in for serious problems. The U.S.-China relationship arguably could determine the future of the world. Our two countries stand Nos. 1 and 2 in CO2 production. Before the economic downturn, the United States and the People's Republic of China accounted for more than half the world's economic growth. After the crash, we're the only countries with truly huge stimulus packages. Although no apologist for China, Fallows is convinced that it's "a better country than its leaders and spokesmen make it seem, and those same leaders look more impressive on their home territory." His tone — smooth, assiduously polite — softens his contrarian bent. But from the start, he takes aim at some of the shibboleths that Western writers have advanced in recent years about China. First up is the notion that China's model of development — an authoritarian political system combined with a semi-free economy — will pose a challenge to Western liberal democracy. It's just not happening. China doesn't have a fixed model at all; the place is in almost constant flux. Second, and more timely, is the idea that China somehow could use the $1.4 trillion it holds in U.S. Treasury securities to blackmail Washington into doing its bidding. Fallows disagrees. Yes, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently announced he wanted Washington to guarantee China's return on its Treasuries. But that statement was directed more at China's domestic audience, worried about another bad Chinese investment. Fallows makes the point that the more China invests in the United States, the more it has a vested interest in U.S. prosperity. How about that $265 billion trade imbalance? Not such a bad thing either, Fallows says, arguing that the economic relationship has been very beneficial for the United States (cheaper stuff!) and definitely better than the one we have with our supposed ally, Japan, which for decades blocked U.S. products from its market and continues to make it difficult for foreigners to invest in its economy. China: just a source for cheap goods? No longer, Fallows says. It's China's speed — in generating designs and figuring out efficient ways to produce — that has turned it into a world-class economy. "People think China is cheap, but really, it's fast," he quotes one Western businessman as saying. Fallows doesn't confine his de-myth-ification to economics. Human rights? China's economic miracle doesn't justify everything the regime has done, especially its crushing of any challenge to one-party rule, he says, but yanking an estimated 200 million people out of poverty is no mean feat. For all the billions of dollars in aid doled out by the World Bank, Fallows writes, "the greatest good for the greatest number of the world's previously impoverished people in at least the last half century has been achieved in China." The environment? In a chapter that he gutsily titles "China's Silver Lining," Fallows challenges the generally accepted idea that China is a continent-size Superfund site. That piece follows the fortunes of a Chinese engineer who has built a better cement plant, one that pollutes less and generates electricity, to boot. "The world will have more time to work toward a solution," Fallows writes, "if it recognizes that its most populous nation is doing some things right." Fallows also delves into murky questions about China's collective psyche. He employs the story of an environmentally conscious air-conditioning magnate to challenge the notion that China's entrepreneurial class is fixated solely on making money. However, when he seeks to dispose of the idea that the Chinese have lost their way morally and spiritually, the do-gooders he profiles turn out to be Taiwanese, not mainlanders. There's a big difference between the two. And Fallows' argument is weakened in the process. Fallows does criticize China, especially for its ham-handed propaganda. It's an active participant in creating a false image for itself in the West, he says. Take, for example, the stunning Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics in which thousands of performers danced, pounded drums and performed tai-chi in lockstep precision. That, Fallows argues, only "increased the impression that the country is one big supercoordinated hive." The reality, he said, "is much the reverse." When Fallows arrived in China, I'd recently left after six years as The Post's bureau chief in Beijing. The country he describes, however, feels fresh to me; comforting in some ways, worrying in others. That's partly because of Fallows' sharp eye, but it's also because China is changing so fast. Reviewed by John Pomfret, who is the editor of The Washington Post's Outlook section and author of 'Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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The author of the highly acclaimed "Blind Into Baghdad" reports firsthand on the momentous changes taking place in China and what it means for America. Photographs throughout.
About the Author
James Fallows is The Atlantic Monthly's national correspondent, who has been based in China since 2006. He is a former editor of U.S. News & World Report and a former chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter. His previous books include Blind Into Baghdad: America's War in Iraq; Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy; Free Flight; Looking at the Sun; More Like Us; and National Defense, which won the American Book Award for nonfiction. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award four times, and his article about the consequences of victory in Iraq, “The Fifty- first State?” won that award in 2003.
Table of Contents
Postcards from Tomorrow Square
Mr. Zhang Builds His Dream Town
Win in China!
China Makes, the World Takes
Macaus Big Gamble
The View from There
The $1.4 Trillion Question
“The Connection Has Been Reset”
Chinas Silver Lining
How the West Was Wired
After the Earthquake
Their Own Worst Enemy
What Our Readers Are Saying
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History and Social Science » Asia » China » Peoples Republic 1949 to Present