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Posted July 9, 2007
Susan Shirk gives her readers some useful tools to better assess the future behavior of a fast-resurging China after being ¿humiliated¿ for a century and a half (pp. 153 ¿ 55, 185 - 87). Shirk clearly explains that Chinese communist power has two faces. China wants to be seen as behaving responsibly to foster economic growth and social stability (pp. 105 ¿ 139). Shirk correctly states that actions rather than words will make it more credible. Establishing this reputation requires China to accommodate its neighbors, to be a team player in multinational organizations, and to use economic ties to make friends (pp. 109, 199, 223, 257 ¿ 61). In case of a major crisis, especially one involving Taiwan, Japan or the United States, China could show its other face by acting irresponsibly due to the absence of effective checks and balances of the Chinese system. Party leaders could recklessly play the nationalistic card again as they did with Taiwan in 1996 or with Japan in 2005 if they need to look strong domestically with other leaders, the mass public, and the military (pp. 10 -12, 43, 63, 69, 77, 139, 151, 173, 179 ¿ 80, 186 ¿ 90, 197, 205, 219). The Communist Party has bet on jingoism since the 1990s because communism in China is a dying ideology in which almost no Chinese believes (pp. 11, 63 ¿ 64, 145, 148, 164 ¿ 70, 186). The Party implausibly claims that ordinary Chinese are unworthy of Western democracy because their country, unlike India, does not have religion to manage them responsibly (p. 53). Chinese leaders know that Chinese nationalists can turn against the Party if they appear too weak to deal with foreign pressures (pp. 61, 66, 173, 180). Economic interdependence has had a somewhat moderating effect on the relationship of China with the outside world, including Taiwan, Japan, and the U.S. (pp. 24, 96, 145 ¿ 46, 190, 195, 233, 241, 247). Due to their fear of widespread instability and their lack of political legitimacy, Party leaders, however, have not displayed much courage in taking unpopular measures such as enforcing intellectual property rights or stopping currency manipulation in trading abroad (pp. 26 - 27, 53 ¿ 54, 60, 73 - 74). Chinese leaders are well aware that the increased protectionism in the U.S. against the fast-growing trade deficit with China and the rampant piracy of U.S. products in China are not politically sustainable, especially in case of a majority change in Washington in 2009 (pp. 25 ¿ 26, 248). At the same time, Shirk correctly points out that the ongoing fiscal profligacy of the U.S. is weakening the country at the profit of China (pp. 26, 249). Of all China¿s challenges, the need for ¿social stability¿ overrules all other considerations, even it means sacrificing long-term diplomatic objectives for short-term domestic political gains (pp. 38, 52 ¿ 54, 109, 148, 183 ¿ 87, 197, 224, 234, 254 - 55). For the Chinese communist leaders and their families, losing power could result in the loss of their possessions or even their death (pp. 7 ¿ 9). To keep its authoritarian grip on power, the Communist Party has articulated a three-pronged policy (p. 39): 1. Avoid public leadership splits: Shirk gives a useful overview of the ¿selectorate,¿ the group of Party members who have the power to choose the leaders, and the modus operandi of the Party (pp. 39 ¿ 52). The Communist Party is not known for its openness in framing domestic and foreign policies (pp. 43 - 44). Patronage is essential for keeping the Party in power, which feeds an endemic corruption from which many communist bigwigs enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Chinese (pp. 60, 68 - 69). Party leaders learn from the Tiananmen fiasco that destabilizing internal dissent can undermine the Party¿s grip on power (pp. 48, 53, 162). Keeping elite contests for power hidden from the public is increasingly difficult as the audience-driven media are testing the limits on what can be reported (pp. 39, 5Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 28, 2012
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