Does The 21st Century Belong To China? is the transcribed Munk Debate between Henry Kissinger, Fareed Zakaria, Niall Ferguson, and David Daokui Li. The Munk Debates are a series of debates covering a variety of subjects in which the subject is always given in the form of a question. Two of the participants form the pro side and two the con. This particular debate managed to get some of the most famous of recent participants. David Daokui Li is one of the Chinese economists most well known to the west and a very outspoken proponent of China gaining more international muscle. Fareed Zakaria is most famous recently for his popular current events TV show but is also a well respected journalist and foreign affairs observer. Henry Kissinger of course is one of the most famous individuals of the last sixty years and was central to American policy decisions during the 60s and 70s. Niall Ferguson is a popular historical author and interestingly the official biographer of Henry Kissinger. None the less, Ferguson and Li take the pro side while Zakaria and Kissinger take the con.
The debate is a short read at around 80 pages including several interviews of the debaters in addition to the actual transcript but well worth the time. Li and Ferguson’s arguments tended to look at macro facts of the world situation, such as China’s historically large economy, its growth since the 80s, and the rest of the worlds problems. Kissinger and Zakaria however homed in repeatedly on China’s numerous challenges and how while much of the world doesn’t want the US to be the sole superpower they are even less interested in having China take its place. I found the arguments of both side very compelling even though they were contradictory. Both sides in this debate tended to steer clear from directly addressing strong points from the other side and so it’s hard to say either team was truly convincing.
In Munk Debate tradition they scored the debate based on audience polling and the con side won (I suspect Kissinger and Zakaria had popularity on their side), but I feel as though both sides did a very good job laying out a case for their position. I recommend this book, few other sources will give you such an interesting set of facts at the cost of just a couple of hours of reading.