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CompleteMartialArts.com - China: Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise


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Manufacturer: Oxford University Press, USA
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Hardcover
Dewey Decimal Number: 320.951
EAN: 9780195306095
ISBN: 0195306090
Label: Oxford University Press, USA
Manufacturer: Oxford University Press, USA
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 336
Publication Date: 2007-04-16
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Studio: Oxford University Press, USA

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Editorial Reviews:

Once a sleeping giant, China today is the world's fastest growing economy--the leading manufacturer of cell phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras--a dramatic turn-around that alarms many Westerners. But in China: The Fragile Superpower, Susan L. Shirk opens up the black box of Chinese politics and finds that the real danger lies elsewhere--not in China's astonishing growth, but in the deep insecurity of its leaders. China's leaders face a troubling paradox: the more developed and prosperous the country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel.
Shirk, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for China, knows many of today's Chinese rulers personally and has studied them for three decades. She offers invaluable insight into how they think--and what they fear. In this revealing book, readers see the world through the eyes of men like President Hu Jintao and former President Jiang Zemin. We discover a fragile communist regime desperate to survive in a society turned upside down by miraculous economic growth and a stunning new openness to the greater world. Indeed, ever since the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders have been haunted by the fear that their days in power are numbered. Theirs is a regime afraid of its own citizens, and this fear motivates many of their decisions when dealing with the U.S. and other foreign nations. In particular, the fervent nationalism of the Chinese people, combined with their passionate resentment of Japan and attachment to Taiwan, have made relations with these two regions a minefield. It is here, Shirk concludes, in the tangled interactions between Japan, Taiwan, China, and the United States, that the greatest danger lies.
Shirk argues that rising powers such as China tend to provoke wars in large part because other countries mishandle them. Unless we understand China's brittle internal politics and the fears that motivate its leaders, we face the very real possibility of avoidable conflict with China. This book provides that understanding.


Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Subduing Bellicosity
Comment: As many others have intricately described the particular subjects that are adroitly dealt with in this book, I will spend my time touting one of its primary virtues.

China is oft portrayed as a monolithic power -- a Communist behemoth in the process of ascending to parity with the United States, and thereby posing an existential threat to all we hold dear. Many are the pundits and politicos that ramp up various and sundry fears of the Middle Kingdom and its 1.3 billion, whether regarding economic or military issues.

This book does yeomen work in presenting to the average American a balanced view of China. Yes, China is rising; who could doubt that? But it is not on an inexorable collision course with the west. In fact, China has a great many problems of its own that it will have to deal with in the years ahead, so much so that to think that China is looking toward the day when it can challenge America for global supremacy is prima facie absurd. What's more likely the case, as Susan Shirk shows, is China's leaders are above all else concerned about their (surprisingly) tenuous hold on power, and care not a fig for surpassing the United States in per capita GDP or in military spending EXCEPT IN SO FAR AS IT WILL PRESERVE THEIR POSITIONS OF PROMINENCE.

In conclusion, hats off to Dr. Shirk for an excellent and well documented work, and for doing -- unwittingly or not -- her service to preserve peace.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Subtitle better suits the contents of the book
Comment: Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Susan L. Shirk has provided a solid book on several of the key domestic and international pressures facing China today. The insights gained from her life experiences set this book apart from many others. Although the last chapter seems as if it was tagged on after-the-fact at the request of an editor, Ms. Shirk stays true to her central theme of public opinion and fear of losing Party control as the driving forces in all of the Chinese government's decisions, domestic and international.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Impressively Truthful
Comment: This book exams the Chinese society very objectively and pinpoints the weaknesses China has, regardless how much it has developed in recent years and how strong people think China is. If you want to know the truth about China, this book is worth reading.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Well-premised but disappointingly shallow
Comment: According to Susan Shirk, China's leaders face a troubling paradox: the more developed and prosperous their country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel. Economic growth and development have unleashed forces that have made it harder for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to maintain control. These domestic anxieties compel leaders to act in two very different ways. China generally behaves like a cautious, responsible power preoccupied with its own domestic problems and intent on avoiding conflicts that would disrupt economic growth and social stability. However, whenever the public pays close attention to an issue, leaders feel like they have to stand tough in order to demonstrate the strength of the regime; thus, high-attention conflicts with Japan, Taiwan, and the United States present the most troubling opportunities for conflict.

Shirk's analysis is notable for going against the grain of a plethora of popular works predicting China's imminent rise to the top of the global order; she concludes that the PRC is a brittle authoritarian regime that fears its own citizens and can only bend so far to accommodate the demands of foreign governments. She points out that Chinese leaders are not invulnerable to their own people merely because the latter lack the right to vote. In addition, she goes to great pains to demystify the "black box" of Chinese elite politics, striving to avoid the trap of referring to the leadership as an omniscient authoritarian powerhouse. That being said, it is surprising that Shirk still tends to refer to "China's leaders" as a coherent body of individuals. She assumes that the factors she has identified affect all leaders' expectations and strategic calculations in a uniform fashion, an assertion that seems problematic at best and somewhat at odds with her personalistic descriptions of the forces driving elite interactions.

In the end, the author accomplishes her goal of getting readers to empathize with the problems of Chinese leaders, but she may also overstate her case. Is China really as brittle as she thinks? The Chinese regime has been marked by astonishing resilience, which suggests that it may not be entirely paralyzed by problems of dealing with public opinion and rising nationalism. On another general note, while Shirk often compellingly uses her experiences as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to illuminate backroom politics and mysterious political figures, she also frequently falls into the trap of making generalizations from anecdotal or thinly-related evidence. For example, she makes claims such as, "[the CCP's] number one priority will always be the preservation of Communist Party rule," following up with less-than-credible evidence such as, "I learned this lesson...when I played the role of China's top leader in an unclassified `simulation'" (p. 8). Despite the fact that this work was written for a popular audience, it seems that Shirk should give her readers a little more credit and offer up more compelling proof of her arguments. Given that the author is also an academic who has studied China for over three decades, this does not seem to be an unreasonable demand. It is disappointing that Shirk failed to use her potentially powerful combination of academic expertise and policy experience to push this question further. That being said, this book provides an interesting, quick, and informative read for the non-China specialist and helps to create a more balanced picture of the problems that China faces as a rising power.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Fatally Flawed!
Comment: Shirk's book is very informative and certainly worth reading. However tragically she stumbles and falls on the last few pages where she expresses that the way to appease genocidal leaders is by "lavishing respect on them."? "The Chinese leaders and public crave respect and approval from the world community", and, the more we use well-publicised formal ceremonies to flatter China's leaders, the more it enhances the prestige of these dictator's egos. And if we seek to protect the businesses of our own nation, "This..inflames Chinese public reactions and robs China's leaders of any incentive to act responsibly.". This advice is tantamount to pandering to these psychopaths who have during their 60 years of ruling with an iron fist, have overseen the slaughter of millions of their own people, as well brutally murdering thousands of their own students who sought democracy. To continue to kowtow to the CCP's sons of heaven as a vassal world to its Chinese emperor, is to appease and flatter the childish tantrums of these lethal bullies. Buying off the KMT in Taiwan, Beijing seeks to undermine the democracy of that nation whilst threatening relentless war against the freedom of the Taiwanese people. The US stands with the totalitarian demands of China and seeks to betray Taiwan into the hands of these unelected warlords for 30 pieces of silver. Shirk's book is fatally flawed and becomes yet again another book which supports Chinese propaganda and the myths of ancient and present greatness.


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