China: Has the Last Opportunity Passed By? (China in the 21st Century) Review

China: Has the Last Opportunity Passed By (China in the 21st Century)
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China: Has the Last Opportunity Passed By (China in the 21st Century) ReviewThis book is a very worthy read not because it offers some sound theories but it poses some very intriguing questions, presented some very interesting observations and more importantly provides a window into the thinking of many contemporary Chinese intellectuals who may influence the future of China which is more and more frequently the focus of the world. It provides authentic Chinese views that one cannot get form publications by trained social scientists or historians. Actually even the English of the book is very Chinese (I am still having hard time comprehending what the authors means by "Entitlement" which is one of the few most important key words of the book). This is the only book that I have ranked 5 stars while disagreeing with so many of its points.
The author is supposed to have the best background to tackle such topic. He grew up in China experiencing the most turbulent era - the Great Cultural Revolution, received college education when China started opening followed by doctorate study in the former Soviet Union, then postdoctoral training in the west. He has witnessed the dramatically different aspects of the world spatially and temporally.
The question "why has China lagged behind the world?" triggered the writing of this book. I always believe this question has been answered for a long time. The reason is isolation - the rulers of China regarded themselves as the descendants of god and China as the center of the world for thousands of years.
I disagree with one primary assumptions of the book that leads to its writing - China reached a peak at the beginning of the 21st century. How can a country with 5000 + years reach a peak when its GDP per capita is only 10% of many other countries? Around 800 AD during Tang dynasty, the Chinese were undoubtedly the most productive in the world with the national GDP accounting for half of the world. Would it be more reasonable to assume China reaches its peak when its GDP per capita is at least about the average of the developed world?
The most intriguing Chapter is Ch. 3 Chinese Way of Thinking covering people, their primary interest, spirit, and thinking pattern. I do not know how representative the description is. It certainly does not represent the millions whom I saw in the streets of Beijing in 1989 protesting for cleaner government, democracy and freedom, but it may well represent a fairly large portion of the population who primarily care about only very practical and personal matters.
The author makes many intriguing arguments. One of them is that people tend to desire life in a relatively isolated small world (e.g. small kingdom) and he uses entropy to support this argument.
The author makes very interesting observations but often follows them with conclusions far from convincing. For example, he writes "the working class is vanishing and trade union is dying worldwide. This means that there will soon be no dominant class in any modern social systems, which should be a new phenomenon in human history". Well, I can see the future world with middle class as the dominant group. How can this scenario be excluded?
Of course, the author also makes observations that hit right on the nail. For example, he states "This opportunity is also possible not only because the Americans were still happy with their super position in world without thinking of solution, but also because the Americans were busy in the war against terror." Imagine how stronger the US would be if it spent a trillion dollars on innovation instead of the war in Iraq that literally created strong Al-Qaeda in a country that was free of Al-Qaeda prior to the war. China surely took full advantage of this drag to the West which provides peace and opportunities to China.
Many statements in the book are so typical of the author's cohort but may be shocking to others. For example, he plainly states "Maoism provides a solution for China, which suffered the consistent chaos and humilities for almost one or two hundred years". During Mao's 27-year reign of P.R.China, 30 to 50 million people died as a direct consequence of his order or policy, millions barely survived after receiving brutal treatment, Chinese economy was near complete collapse at his last breadth while many other countries that suffered destruction from WWII marched into the modern economy. Was that the solution for China? Some people argue that only Mao who could help China gain independence. I can understand if it is said by someone who grew up with heavy CCP's brainwashing, I would feel insulted if a foreigner asserts that 400-million Chinese could produce just one person in the first half of the last century to lead China to independence while countries like the US could have many founding fathers who led their motherland into glory. Any objective historian can tell you that the founding father of modern China is Sun Yat-sen and it was his protégé Chiang Kai-shek who defeated some and united the other warlords to form a united China under extreme difficult circumstances. Many legitimate criticisms can be made about Chiang Kai-shek including his totalitarian government very similar to the current Chinese regime, but it is an undeniable fact the Nationalist army led Chiang played by far the major and brave role in WWII fighting the Japanese with over a million troops sacrificing their lives including more than 250 generals. The Chinese permanent seat on the United Nation Security Council was earned by the blood of the troops led by Chiang and secured by Chiang's firm standing. Even among the communists, there were plenty capable of leading China to independence. So, Mao and Maoism, in my opinion, were the most unfortunate things that China suffered from in the last century, not the solution.
The most shocking assertion by the author is that the Chinese lack logic and confuse accuracy with precision. Logic, or reasoning, is essential for any theory with practical use. Sun Tzu on the Art of War written 2500 + years ago is a primary text for the US War College and West Point, required reading for CIA officers. Does the author think logic is missing in this work or it is just an exception? Chinese banking system started more than a thousand years ago and was once among the finest and most stable financial institutions. Can a financial industry thrive without adequate accuracy or precision? Does the author recognize that the Chinese invented their own abacus 2nd century BC and were able to crunch accurate numbers faster than any other people?

The author attributes the relative fewer systematic theories to the nature of the Chinese culture. I am wondering if the author has ever wondered why so many great thinkers and theories such as Sun Tzu, Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi, Mozi, Legalism, etc. were born in the relatively short span of Warring States Period and such flourishing of ideas immediately died after Qin Shihuang Di unified China, burned books and reduced the freedom of speech to zero. Is this random and pure coincidence? Another surge of ideas especially in literature arose during Tang dynasty when there was quite a degree of freedom of speech. The unprecedented prosperity of China also happened in that period. Is this another coincidence? Suppose someone today has a great theory in social science especially regarding governing and it is quite different from Marxism, would he be able to become a prominent figure in any Chinese institutions and his theory be widely studied? I would say that most likely he would be in jail like Dr. Xiaobo Liu, the theory would be banned and the key words of his theory would be filtered out in search engines. I have never lost the faith in Chinese people creating great theories benefiting the humankind and it will happen because the freedom of speech is the shared desire by all human beings and when it finally comes to China, there will be a spectacular flourishing of new ideas, theories on a land with 5000+ years history as its rich soil.
Again, despite my disagreements with many points of this book some of which are expressed in this review, I believe this book is a rare window to see the thinking of some contemporary Chinese intellectuals and providing many intriguing questions and observations.China: Has the Last Opportunity Passed By (China in the 21st Century) Overview

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