Monday, 19 September 2011

Book Review: Why China Will Never Rule the World

Why China Will Never Rule the World.jpgWhy China Will Never Rule the World is the exciting new book from Troy Parfitt, a Canadian ex-pat who, after a decade of living in Taiwan, sets off on a three month journey through China to challenge the widely-held perception of it’s impending dominance.

And challenge it he does: through a thoroughly detailed account of his journey, Parfitt paints a picture of a state that is significantly impoverished, endemically corrupt, stiflingly authoritarian and suffocating under chronic mismanagement as well as deep-seated and widespread social problems.  On this basis he concludes that there is little chance of China 'ruling the world' in social or economic terms, despite what many in politics, business and the media may seem to believe.

Of course there is nothing revolutionary about challenging the view of China’s unstoppable rise per se.  Authors such as James Kygne (China Shakes the World), and Will Hutton (The Writing on the Wall), have already made convincing cases that China's many problems, from the lack of basic freedoms to the CCPs constant interference in economic matters, may well slow or even derail its ascent.  Where Parfitt's work does offer a unique slant however, is in its focus 'on the ground' - addressing ordinary twenty-first century Chinese people in their day-to-day lives.

Whilst it lacks some of the academic clout of Kynge or Hutton therefore, it offers a highly valuable complement to their outlook by providing the reader with a picture of the 'real China' and the lives of its billion people; something that no China-watcher, or indeed anyone with an interest in international affairs, can afford to ignore.

This approach also makes the book incredibly readable and enjoyable, with Parfitt's political analysis and fascinating whistle-stop history lessons broken up by amusing anecdotes of his encounters with locals and fellow travellers.

It is worth noting that human rights activists may find Why China Will Never Rule the Wold slightly lacking. Parfitt highlights the general authoritarian nature of the CCP (comparisons to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four are frequent) and touches upon  issues such as the death penalty, persecution of Falun Gong and press restrictions.  However he does not dig deep into the abuses, only briefly covers Tibet and never makes it to East Turkestan.  Nevertheless, those activists seeking to expand their general knowledge of contemporary China will find it an informative insight - and a genuinely good read.

‘Why China Will Never Rule the World’ is out now.  It is available in paperback or e-book.

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