"A gimlet-eyed look at an economic miracle that may not be so miraculous after all." Kirkus Reviews
"...A clearheaded and persuasive counter-narrative to the notion that the Chinese economic model is set to take over the world. Readers looking for an informed and nuanced perspective on modern China will find it here." Publishers Weekly
"Roberts has given a well-sourced, thoughtfully reasoned, and cogently-written narrative of the largest migration in human history . . . . [He] helps us understand why this could be an even more disruptive tipping point moment not only for China, but the global economy."
Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director, Center on US-China Relations and co-author of Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century
"Dexter Roberts gives a sophisticated and readable take of China's triumphs and crises. He introduces us to global CEOs and takes us on tours of China's sprawling factory floors, but is most at home in the China's left-behind countryside. There, Roberts' decades-long contact with farmers and ex-factory workers shows systemic problems that could prevent China from becoming a wealthy country. A first-hand witness to China's transformation over the past quarter century, Roberts credibly challenges the myth of China's inevitable rise and global dominance."
Ian Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Beijing-based correspondent
“Ever bought a made-in-China handbag at Walmart and wondered who made it? It’s possibly someone whose experience is similar to the people Dexter Roberts writes about so vividly in this smart and compelling book, workers who struggle to make a living and face deep discrimination in China’s cities. A potent mix of personal stories and deft analysis, The Myth of Chinese Capitalism takes a hard look at China’s migrants and rural people – together one-half the country’s population - who fueled their country’s manufacturing boom, but for whom the China dream remains elusive.”
Mei Fong, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment
“Anybody doing business in China should read this book . . . . By taking us from impoverished villages to factory floors and into the lives of unsettled migrant workers and overwrought bureaucrats who struggle to meet the goals of Party leaders, Roberts lays out why the assumption of an ever-larger China market is uncertain, with implications for multinationals everywhere.”
James McGregor, author of One Billion Customers: Lessons From the Front Lines of Doing Business in China
"There's an enormous gap between how 'China's rise' looks from a distance, and how its realities affect the hundreds of millions of poor and rural Chinese people still looking for a better life. Dexter Roberts has reported on these realities for decades, and he does a wonderful job of combining vivid personal stories with provocative larger points about China's fate. Anyone who hopes to understand China's strengths and vulnerabilities will want to read this book."
James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic and author of China Airborne
"In this vivid, provocative account, Dexter Roberts leaves the glittering cities that attract too much of the world’s attention, and tells the story of China’s other half – the farmers and migrants who may never reach the mythic goal of middle-class life. Deeply fluent in China's economy and culture, Roberts challenges our assumptions about China’s path and delivers a vital warning about risks ahead."
Evan Osnos, author of Age of Ambition, winner of the 2014 National Book Award
"Have you ever looked at the miraculous urban landscapes of today’s Chinathe Shanghai skyline, the Shenzhen roadwaysand wondered what lies beneath? In The Myth of Chinese Capitalism, Dexter Roberts investigates the roots of China’s boom, tracking how rural institutions, communities, and people have been sacrificed for the sake of cities. This book is a welcome reminder of the more than half a billion citizens who make their homes in the Chinese countryside."
Peter Hessler, author and contributor to the New Yorker
A gimlet-eyed look at an economic miracle that may not be so miraculous after all.
China's economic transformation since the death of Mao Zedong may be impressive. However, writes Roberts, who was a Beijing-based economics and business reporter for more than 20 years, it is incomplete, and inequality reigns. One element has been the termination of the agricultural communes of old in favor of private ownership of land, but in many instances, the effect was that farmers gave up their plots in order to move to the city and its greater opportunities. The government's response, belatedly, was to impose controls on internal migration, meaning, in effect, that many Chinese were "illegal aliens" in their own country. Now that many farmers have left the city and returned to the countryside, it has "become apparent how much the cities and their urban residents had depended on them as restaurant cooks, waiters, and dishwashers, delivery people, drivers of Didi Chuxing (China's version of Uber), proprietors of small shops and hairdressers, and household cleaners and nannies." At issue is how those millions of people will make a living back home; so, too, is how money is distributed in China's evolving financial system. Most credit is extended to state-owned enterprises, Roberts writes, crowding out private entrepreneurs. Indeed, even though government policy remains a variant on the "it's a good thing to grow rich" slogans of old, self-employment is increasingly difficult, and the Chinese version of the "gig economy" seems to be rapidly failing. Deng Xiaoping's version of trickle-down economics, with residents of the coasts becoming prosperous first and then people in the distant interiors following suit afterward, has not worked, either. The author concludes by noting that while the Chinese government has been able to take credit for the comparative economic successes of the past few decades, it is also vulnerable to attack "for misrule when living standards deteriorate," to which the inevitable response will be more repression, not more economic freedom.
Of much interest to students of international trade, geopolitical strategy, and global economic trends.