The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States

The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States

3.0 1
by 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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
Terrill has extensive knowledge of Chinese history that he imparts with graceful style and in fascinating detail.
Christian Science Monitor
Terrill has produced another engaging book, and anyone interested in China...would do well to study it.
By looking at China's past, Terrill has provided an excellent road map for understanding its future.
The American Enterprise
Masterfully describes the full nature of Chinese ambitions, their deep historical roots, and the coming developments that will thwart them.
Publishers Weekly
Experienced China-watcher Terrill (Mao: A Biography) has viewed with a skeptical eye China's emergence as a major player in the international community. In this rather one-sided view of China's future, he implores the West not to pursue a policy of na ve engagement with the People's Republic, citing what he considers to be the dangerous state-centered legacy of the nation's dynastic past. Of principal concern to Terrill is China's continued territorial control over the culturally alien border regions of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. This imperial expansionism is driven in part by what Terrill identifies as an arrogant sense of entitlement in the minds of China's leaders, coupled with a military capability that he overstates to buttress his provocative conclusion: that China is a "misfit" in the international system and is what Terrill calls a "semiterrorist outfit." The author also argues that if malcontented minorities on China's periphery don't tear apart the Communist regime, then a faltering Chinese economy will. Communist repression limits what Terrill crudely describes as the "Chinese genius for business" and the people's "industriousness," and, he expects, will bring about a powerful backlash against the state. One symptom of the coming collapse identified by Terrill relates to a yawning gap in income among workers and the fact that 1% of Chinese owns 40% of the country's wealth. This is alarming, but hardly foreshadows the country's collapse when one considers the size of the economic gap in the U.S. Maps. (Apr. 2) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
China is "a civilization pretending to be a nation"--or, put another way: several nations bound by an anachronistic empire in which "Red Emperors" clash with wired hipsters for control of the future. So writes the widely published China hand Terrill (Fairbank Center for East Asian Research/Harvard; China in Our Time, 1992, etc.), who agrees with fellow historian Gerald Segal that "China is a second-rank middle power," far from the Asian leviathan of realpolitiker theory. Yet China has aggressively expanded its frontiers in the last 60 years, swallowing up portions of Central Asia and Tibet and seeking to increase its influence internationally, especially by recruiting that largely imaginary class of citizens called "Overseas Chinese." Since the death of the "neo-emperor" Mao Zedong, the Chinese state has been following two contradictory paths, "hurtling down one road in economics and limping down a different road in politics"; despite misbegotten efforts to do so, the central authority has failed to keep pace with advances in Chinese society at large, putting Beijing at odds with the rest of the nation, even as the rest of the nation makes polite requests of its leadership to loosen its grip on daily life. (Even the most radical of the Tiananmen Square protestors, Terrill writes, sought only a dialogue with "the Communist party-state.") All its weaknesses allowed for, though, China still offers a threat to America, especially because it seeks to displace the US as the chief economic force in Asia and "expects a showdown with America (unless Americans accept illusion as truth, and lie down and roll over)." Or, perhaps, unless liberal reformist forces guide China to a responsible role as atrue nation, not an empire, that will serve as "a constructive partner" rather than "an emerging threat." A provocative analysis of Asian affairs and world politics.

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Product Details

Basic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
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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New Chinese Empire: And What it Means for the United States 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.