China The Balance Sheet

Reading books on China is frustrating because everyone has an axe to grind. It seems everyone is either in love with China and willing to explain away any problem or afraid of the sleeping dragon and trying desperately to prevent it from waking. In that light I loved  China: The Balance Sheet, you can tell by the approach the book takes that the authors see many issues with China during its rise, but are still optimistic.

The two think tanks responsible for putting out this report, the Center For Strategic And International Studies and the Institute For International Economics work from the realization that the development of China is going to have the biggest effect of any country on the world  in the coming century. A modern, responsible China will do much beyond “just” lift hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty. The size of China’s economy could add enormously to the global GDP and create stability and wealth around the world. As the last two decades have shown, as China’s economy develops the rest of the world’s quality of life improves. The China and the rest of the world can work together for the benefit of all.

On the other hand, China could become a major drain on the rest of the world. China, like Japan, Taiwan, Korea, before it (and even earlier like America and Europe) will look to move up the value added chain. Friction could begin to occur, and if China’s rise becomes a zero sum game then both China and other previously developed economies could lash out, causing a net loss for everyone.

Finally China could also stumble in its trek towards modernity.  China faces many huge problems, many with no obvious solution. China is a mess domestically, its issues in the political and social realms are numerous and very serious. In the international realm China is beginning to face friction as it seeks greater amounts of resources and begins to utilize its clout. Relations with Japan, Taiwan, the US, or many other countries could degrade to the point of conflict,

I loved this book. It balances positive views of what China could become with both the negative aspects of its rise and the challenges it faces as it develops. I felt this book was very balanced and didn’t get bogged down in hyperbole. It is short enough and an easy read. I recommend it to anyone, I think it would make for a great introduction to modern China or a solid addition to your library if you’re already an expert.

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