BPE Senior Seminar
“China Shakes the World”
James Kynge, the former China bureau chief of the Financial Times in Beijing, presents a realistic and honest version of China with his book “China Shakes the World”. After spending years researching about the Chinese economic, social and political conditions, James had a good understanding of both the current conditions in China as well as the path China took to be where it is now. The author has an unbiased view on China’s ups and downs, and presented only facts to readers. The author mainly diagnosed China from six different dimensions: historical, population, international, resource, social, and political. As the author demonstrated in the opening of his book, the developing path that China took was not a smooth one, and modern Chinese history is filled with unintended changes and outcomes. Even in China today, debates exist on whether Mao Zedong’s victory in the Chinese civil war was beneficial to the country in general, or even another step further, how China’s role in the world has evolved from the ancient giant. Over the past millennia, China has always been regarded as a prestigious country, producing high quality goods like silk, pottery, tea, and painting. It was during the Qing dynasty when China began to fall behind due to the industrial revolution in the western world. As the author argued, although China has been one of the largest nations both by population and by GDP, it has never been a superpower in the world. It is true that ancient China appeared to be rich and had a high standard of living, but China had always relied on agriculture and its vast population merely lived above subsistence level. While ancient China had enough resources to feed its enormous population, the nation itself was constantly battling in civil wars as well as defending itself from foreign invasion. Aside from rudimentary technology development including the compass, papermaking, fire powder, and printing, China has not had any break-through inventions over the past centuries. Therefore, China’s aggressive acquisitions abroad in the past decade, like the Shagang and the New Hope examples mentioned in James’s book, are not a sign of threat, but an effort that the Chinese corporations made to compete in the global market. Another great example given by James is the family of Wang Qiling, whose daughter went to London to be a maid and eventually saved up enough money to purchase the most extravagant house in its neighborhood. Currently China is rapidly catching up with the western world, but it still has a long way to go considering the substantial population that still lives below the poverty line. Poverty is not simply a problem in itself; it is also the cause of many other social issues within China. With billions of mouths to feed, the Chinese government and entrepreneurs are coming up with different ways to make a living, such as piracy and fake products. Lifan motor, a classic example listed in the book, talks about how piracy is a concern to many foreign companies investing in China. Lifan blatantly copied Honda’s design and started selling cheap motorcycles in the Chinese market. Currently, piracy is not merely a concern to the Chinese population but a given. Going into nightclubs in second-tier cities, customers are served with high-end brandname alcohol products that are locally produced. These products are not only inferior in quality, but can potentially lead to severe alcohol poisoning and sometimes even death. After experiencing the extreme poverty period during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese merchants are investing in every possible way to make a profit, and all morals and rationalities are thrown out. This disintegration of ethics is what China has experienced over the past decades. The author has a solid point and there are in fact millions of examples to support the argument. The trend, however, is not very likely to...