China Fragile Superpower: How China’s Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise. Susan Shirk writes one of the most well written, insightful, and through provoking books on China’s current situation today.
The book has a very interesting setup, where Shirk first describes the processes China’s government uses to make decisions, and then goes through a litany of challenges that China faces and discusses the background of the situation, why it’s a problem, and how China might act. Shirk uses views of China’s economy, domestic threats, and foreign relations with Japan, Taiwan, and the US as ways to support her view that while China is a strong country in many respects, it is still very fragile domestically.
She shows that all of China’s decisions are viewed through the lens of a regime first and foremost afraid of its own people. China needs to keep the economy growing because unemployment and stagnant wages would lead to domestic unrest. China can’t back down on Taiwan because the government has pushed propaganda for fifty years saying that retaking Taiwan is one of the pillars of Chinese communism. Similarly China has blamed the US and Japan for so many ills over the years that not only must it be aggressive towards each in the eyes of it’s population, but any perceived slight by the US or Japan has to be responded to forcefully.
This book has been the one book which helps me understand most why the Chinese government responds the way it does in the international arena, and I recommend it whole heartily.