The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United Statesby Ross Terrill
Some observers expect China to become an economic superpower. Others expect it to fragment into pieces. Is China nationalistic and on the march, or is it a stumbling Communist dinosaur? Is it already a billion-citizen member of the global village? Is it, as the Clinton administration claimed, a "strategic partner" of the U.S.?Ross Terrill addresses the question… See more details below
Some observers expect China to become an economic superpower. Others expect it to fragment into pieces. Is China nationalistic and on the march, or is it a stumbling Communist dinosaur? Is it already a billion-citizen member of the global village? Is it, as the Clinton administration claimed, a "strategic partner" of the U.S.?Ross Terrill addresses the question upon which all these others depend: Is the People's Republic of China, whose polity is a hybrid of Chinese tradition and Western Marxism, willing to become a modern nation or does it insist on remaining an empire? Since the collapse of three thousand years of Confucian monarchy in 1911, China has neither established a successful political system nor adjusted to being a nation state. Today it stands as the most contradictory of major powers, hovering between an unsustainable tradition and a yet-to-be-born political form that would support its new society and economy. Hanging in the balance are the prospect for freedom within China (for both Chinese and non-Chinese citizens of the People's Republic), the future of America's relations with China, and the security of China's neighbors.Drawing upon Terrill's long experience studying China as well as upon new research, this enlightening and rigorous book will be a must-read for everyone who has a stake in the future of the global world order.
- Basic Books
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- 6.28(w) x 9.74(h) x 1.25(d)
Meet the Author
Ross Terrill is an associate in research at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard. He has written several books on China, including Mao: A Biography, which has been translated into seven languages, Madame Mao, and China in our Time. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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By the middle of the first chapter of this book, you know exactly where Ross Terrill stands. He is not a fan of the CCP. That being said, I found his view refreshing. There are many China apologists writing out there, and this book tries to balance the field. Some complaints: 1.) Terrill is vague in parts. Take this sentence for example: 'Historically, the centralization-devolution swings were sometimes a prelude to dynastic decline and fragmentation, but not always'(pg. 180). There are many wishy-washy sentences like that in 'New Chinese Empire.' Also, I am in the dark as to what 'synergy' really means in the context of international relations. A more detailed explanation would have been welcomed. 2.) China scholars would disagree with Terrill that because China does not hold national, free elections, Chinese citizens have no say in their government (see Shi Tianjian's 'Political Participation in Beijing'). Elections are not the only, and not even the most effective, mode of participation. Chinese participate in a variety of ways...refusal to attend meetings, local elections, protests against local cadres, letter writing (which Terrill dismisses offhand as 'petitioning the court'), etc. 3.) Some of what Terrill writes contradicts what I have learned (not to say I am right; conflicting sources automatically make me wary). For example: Terrill claims the protests following the accidental American bombing of the Chinese embassy in Serbia were coordinated by the government. I was under the impression that the government tried its best to get Chinese to stop protesting for the sake of Sino-American harmony. 4.) Terrill can be overly harsh on China. In his disussion of Sino-Japanese relations, he criticizes China for not letting World War II issues go. To be fair, Japan never has apologized for atrocoties committed in that war, and its nations textbooks do not address the question honestly. The fact that China also censors its textbooks / history does not lessen Japan's blame . Also, there were a few times I felt Terrill was a micrometer away from calling China 'Chicom,' and he did call it a 'semi-terrorist outfit.' This seems a bit much. 5.) Terrill's argument seems to rely too much on emotion. He taps into American frustrations at China's grandstanding, and finds a historical basis for it. 6.) Some of the accusations Terrill waves at China could be said just as equally about America, or any country for that matter. He states China doesn't have allies, and therefore they are inconsistent and dishonest in foreign policy. No country has allies, they have interests, and these interests change over time. Terrill's accusation singles China out, but can be applied to every country in every time. All those complaints aside, overall I liked this book. I particularaly liked his explanation of China's claims on territory that is simply not theirs (Tibet, Xinjiang, Manchuria, etc.). His view on Taiwan was especially appreciated. He notes that talk about the 'Taiwan problem' masks that there is no problem. Taiwan is a healthy, prosperous democracy. The problem is that China claims to own it. Having lived in Taiwan, I can attest to the fact that the Mainland's propoganda claiming that the Taiwan issue is exacerbated by American policy is absolutely false. I have yet to meet a Taiwanese person who thinks 're'unification is anywhere close to a good idea. But I digress... Okay, so in summary, this book was a good read, but read with a critical eye.