China's Uncertain Future

China's Uncertain Future

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    China's Uncertain Future
    Book Description:

    Based on his experience as a scholar and diplomat stationed in China, Jean-Luc Domenach consults a wealth of archival and contemporary materials to examine China's place in the world. A sympathetic yet critical observer, Domenach brings his intimate knowledge of the country to bear on a range of crucial issues, such as the growth (or deterioration) of China's economy, the government's ever-delayed democratization, the potential outcomes of a national political crisis, and the possible escalation of a revamped authoritarianism.

    Domenach ultimately reads China's current progress as a set of easy accomplishments presaging a more difficult era of development. His finely nuanced analysis captures the difficult decisions now confronting China's elite, who are under tremendous pressure to support an economy based on innovation and consumption, establish a political system based on law and popular participation, rethink their national identity and spatial organization, and define a more positive approach to the world's problems. These leaders are also besieged by corruption among their ranks, an increasingly restless urban population, and a sharp decline in the country's demographic growth. Domenach taps into these anxieties and the attempt to alleviate them, revealing a China much less confident and secure than many would believe.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52645-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: The New “Chinese Moment”
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    CHINA IS NOW JUST AROUND THE CORNER. ONE-FOURTH OF THE bars-tabacs in Paris are Chinese owned, and you cannot take the Métro without seeing students or businessmen from Beijing. In September 2007, a Chinese warship for the first time dropped anchor in a French port on the Mediterranean, a stone’s throw from fashionable beaches.¹

    This is a worldwide phenomenon. The paths of Chinese emigration traverse Russia and central Europe. The leader of the parliamentary opposition in Australia has touted his knowledge of Mandarin as part of his 2007 election campaign strategy.² Chinese companies are doing business throughout Africa, much to...

  5. Book I. Measure for Measure
    • [Book I Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      WHAT IS THE STATE OF CHINA? OBSERVERS GENERALLY SEEM TO agree that in the last three decades China has made enormous economic progress, significant gains in foreign policy, and relative advances in social and cultural matters, but little political progress—and even less when it comes to human rights. But they have divergent views of the importance of these various sectors. Some analysts believe that economic progress will bring about improvements in everything else; others, that the lack of democracy will in the end produce catastrophe. It is not surprising that the former are generally close to business circles and...

    • Chapter 1 The Regime’s New Foundations
      (pp. 3-24)

      CONTRARY TO WELL-ESTABLISHED STEREOTYPES, THE CHINESE political regime was both renewed and consolidated. The essential event was the end not of communism but of totalitarian communism: the country is still governed dictatorially by the Chinese Communist Party, but this dictatorship has assumed less power over people and events than the former Maoist regime.

      The way in which Deng saved a regime that Maoist frenzy had plunged into misfortune, disorder, and impotence is now well known. Upon returning to power in December 1978, he promised to concentrate his efforts on concrete growth, and he took preliminary measures to boost incomes. To...

    • Chapter 2 In a New World
      (pp. 25-32)

      UNLESS CHINA CHANGED ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD, strong growth would be inconceivable. Totalitarianism fostered the country’s isolation: moving away from it implied opening up the society. And growth of the economy demanded that the country find in the outside world the necessary technical resources and commercial outlets. Opening to the world was thus the prelude to entering the world.

      In the early days, the intention was only to open China to the world, and that only with extreme caution. This opening was primarily political and strategic; dealt with the economy only through governmental agreements, except for relations with the...

    • Chapter 3 The Magnitude and Weaknesses of Growth
      (pp. 33-44)

      “CHINA IS THE GREATEST DEVELOPMENT SUCCESS THE WORLD has ever known.”¹ This statement is one example of the widespread orthodoxy that considers Chinese growth to be extraordinary. Moreover, China’s growth is sustainable, and China is thus destined to play the leading role in the world.

      This argument is based primarily on the performance of the Chinese economy for nearly three decades. By accumulating annual growth rates of approximately 9 percent since 1980, the Chinese economy achieved a slightly better result than that of Japan in its best days and clearly better than that of South Korea subsequently. And—this is...

  6. Book II. The Acid Test
    • Chapter 4 Explanation
      (pp. 47-70)

      THE FORAY INTO THE CHINESE ECONOMY THAT I AM ABOUT TO embark on is inspired by my experience as a pedestrian in the alleys of Beijing, the hutongs. Over the course of five years, this experience has enabled me to supplement and qualify the economic analyses that were current at the time, because it provided me with a more concrete view of the human factors governing Chinese growth.

      These factors are not cultural constants but aspects of the contemporary “Chinese moment.” Their importance comes in particular from the fact that they help explain both the practically universal increase in the...

    • Chapter 5 The Acceleration of History
      (pp. 71-88)

      THE PROSPECT, THEN, IS FOR A REDUCTION IN THE RATE OF growth, or stagnation, perhaps worse. This will be an acid test for the government, the seriousness of which will depend on its magnitude.

      The first reason for this is that the new difficulties will force the political apparatus and its clients to restrain the appetites that they have steadily developed—and satisfied—over the last three decades. The sacrifices will no doubt fall more heavily on the people, but they will also affect entrepreneurs, who will be forced to reduce their profits, and more widely the tens of millions...

  7. Book III. The Great Riddles of the Future
    • Chapter 6 Can China Be Governed?
      (pp. 91-108)

      THE FACT IS SO WIDELY KNOWN THAT FEW MAKE THE EFFORT to think about it: China is not only immense (3.7 million square miles), but it is also the most populated country in the world, accounting for about 20 percent of the world’s population. The fact that India is on the way to catching up with the Chinese population does not justify playing down the problem, because India at least is an explicitly federal state, like Canada, Brazil, and Russia, nations the sociologist Ignacy Sachs calls “whales in the global ocean.” China shares with them the huge burdens of space...

    • Chapter 7 One People?
      (pp. 109-118)

      BEING POORLY LED, THE CHINESE PEOPLE HAS BECOME HARD to govern. Since the waves of Maoist mobilization have stopped blending it together, it is no longer a single entity. Rather, it is the “heap of sand” that Sun Yat-sen deplored at the beginning of the twentieth century: it is following the same set of inclinations, of course—these days, profit and increased income—but is unable to cohere.

      This is a fundamental point understood by people who have spent time in China: the Chinese people, reputed for its collective discipline, even for its nationalism, is not only diverse but is...

    • Chapter 8 Will China Finally Discover the World?
      (pp. 119-134)

      THE FIRST AND PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEOLOGICAL revision that took place inside the Chinese Communist Party had to do with China’s relationship to the outside world. Consider: from the beginning of the Sino-American dialogue in 1971–1972, the leaders in Beijing were one after the other convinced that differences in political regimes did not always bring about hostility, that international trade can be a way of reducing divergences between countries, that participation in the process of globalization does not necessarily condemn China to marginalization, and that approval of Asian regionalization does not necessarily contradict the emergence of Chinese power....

    • Chapter 9 What Does China Want?
      (pp. 135-138)

      IT REMAINS TO DETERMINE WHAT PROGRAM FOR THE FUTURE the leaders are really proposing to the population. As of now, there are two clear and more or less consensual goals: raising living standards and increasing the country’s power. After the end of the Maoist nightmare and in the ensuing era of prosperity, that alone was enough to make sense.

      But a minority of the urban population has already attained what the government nicely calls a “society of small prosperity.” It now has other concerns, ethical, metaphysical, touristic. This is the group that comprises the numerous readers of books rehabilitating Confucianism....

  8. Conclusion: China’s Great Challenge
    (pp. 139-144)

    IN 2006, WHEN I BEGAN TO THINK ABOUT WRITING THIS BOOK, foreign commentators did not believe in the possibility of a Chinese crisis, much less that one was imminent. Yet Chinese leaders were constantly sounding the alarm, in vain. By early 2008, however, the climate had changed, first of all because Chinese economic circumstances themselves had changed. In the face of the return of inflation and the decline in American imports, some hasty commentators even began to panic. Later, it was because the authorities’ directives intended to reduce growth had begun to be applied. Had they cooled off the economy...

  9. Afterword: China Moves Toward a Consumer Economy
    (pp. 145-160)

    THIS BOOK WAS PUBLISHED IN FRANCE RIGHT AFTER THE 2008 Olympic Games, during the early stages of the developing financial crisis. Not only did the games yield unquestionable sporting successes, but they also displayed China’s ability—later confirmed by the Universal Exposition of Shanghai from May to October 2010—to organize a very large-scale event and to bring the entire world to listen to the imperial discourse it now proclaims.

    But the financial crisis is far more important. Beginning in the United States in September 2008, it seriously weakened the most developed economies in the world today: the United States,...

    (pp. 161-162)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 163-176)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-182)
  13. Index
    (pp. 183-192)