I’m not sure even now how much I like What Does China Think? by Mark Leonard. The author is obviously a very smart individual, but as I read the book I kept getting the creeping suspicion that Leonard has some axe to grind and that he was trying to force the facts to support his view. That said, I have read this book several times and it was as engaging the last time as the first.
Leonard’s argument revolves around the idea that China has found a societal, political, and economic system which is very different from that of the west and that works. He describes the combination of a state capitalism, open markets, and a closed political system as a new paradigm other countries will find attractive. China has been making friends and building clout, and Leonard says this will lead to China taking a leading role in the next century.
I don’t disagree with any of these points, but Leonard barely acknowledges the deep problems facing China, he is supremely confident in the Chinese government being able to find solutions to any problem, while at the same time dismissing the chance China will have to change in any dramatic way to do so.
While I suspect Leonard is off the mark with many of his conclusions, this book is still well worth the read. He describes China’s current political system and their style of foreign policy in a transparent and sensible way. I can disagree with Leonard and still look forward to reading any new book he comes out with, which is probably the best thing I can say in favor of this book.