China is hot. The world sees a glorious future for this sleeping giant, three times larger than the United States, predicting it will blossom into the world's biggest economy by 2010. According to Chang, however, a Chinese-American lawyer and China specialist, the People's Republic is a paper dragon. Peer beneath the veneer of modernization since Mao's death, and the symptoms of decay are everywhere: Deflation grips the economy, state-owned enterprises are failing, banks are hopelessly insolvent, foreign investment continues to decline, and Communist party corruption eats away at the fabric of society.
The thesis of this provocatively titled but solidly argued book is simple and persuasive. Beneath the glitter of China's recent successes lies a deeply flawed economic system dominated by a sclerotic, fearful, and corrupt Communist elite. Bereft of solutions to the structural problems that plague China's economy and unwilling to loosen their grip on power, these men tinker with half-measures that are doomed to fail and increasingly resort to coercion to maintain their control. Chang, an American lawyer who lived and worked in China for almost 20 years, writes in an acerbic, almost sassy style and illustrates his points with numerous concrete examples from the past decade. The book is not merely a warning to anyone contemplating investment in China but an eye-opener to "Sino-optimists" in general. Chang's apocalyptic prediction of the Communist regime's collapse after a failed attempt to conquer Taiwan may not be the most likely of alternate scenarios, but it is at least plausible. Unfortunately, his hope that a liberal and democratic China will replace the current authoritarian regime seems less plausible. For all academic and larger public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/01.] Steven I. Levine. Univ. of Montana, Missoula Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 07, 2002
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