Know the limits of China envy

Even amid forecasts of slowing growth, there’s a lot to like about China’s economy. China Versus the West: The Global Power Shift of the 21st Century catalogues the advantages China enjoys developmentally and demographically over Western rivals. In fact, my book review suggests author Ivan Tselichtchev understates China’s economic clout in some areas. Most helpfully, the book helps Westerners understand the rivalry from China’s point of view.

But like many fans of the red team, Tselichtchev gets carried away with China envy. His book contends that China’s political system and even its moral and ethical standards equip it for superior performance. Yes, the West has had a rough decade or few, highlighted by the Wall Street-led crash of 2008. But along comes the Bo Xilai case combining politics, corruption, murder and money laundering at the very highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party.

Most telling, as told in the Asia Times article above and attached links, the sprawling scandal reveals how fragile the Chinese political structure has become. The emphasis on stability has rendered the system so brittle that a single crack can shatter the entire system. The scandal reminds China’s best and brightest of the dangerous beast they are riding, one perfectly capable of turning on them at any time. In comparison, the West doesn’t not look so bad.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.

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