The interestingly named Will China Dominate the 21st Century by Jonathan Fenby asks a popular question and answers it with a resounding no. Anyone afraid of China dominating the current century should read this book to gain perspective on the long list of problems China faces. Fenby has an interesting perspective on China which seems even handed. While he constantly acknowledges the gains China has made in recent memory he just as often points the issues China faces going forward, and unlike some other authors he doesn’t seem defensive about Chinas gains or pleased with the issues they face going forward. That said, the list of weaknesses Fenby brings up are many and varied.
One intersting tact the author takes towards the Chinese economy is to look at the four “uns” Premeir Wen Jiaobao discussed in 2012. The four uns are:
- The economy is unsustainable.
- The economy is uncoordinated.
- The economy is unbalanced.
- The economy is unstable.
These items are discussed at length and are used to describe an economy which is large but very fragile. To be a central banker is China seems like a herculean task. The economy has problems, is difficult to measure accurately, and is constantly changing. China has grabbed a tiger by the tail, many of the tools used to get to this point are causing big problems but ending their use would cause other, equally big problems.
Fenby concludes in an even handed manner. It is his opinion that china has a huge set of problems but that these problems are normal and expected given the path China has taken to get to this point. The overarching theme of the book comes back to the question posed in the title. China will not dominate the 21st century because while they are developing rapidly they have such a huge distance to go that they won’t have the power to do so for a long time.