Debates about China have been overloaded by the burden of interests rather than investigation, by stiff and opinionated ideology rather than examination of the ‘engines’ of China’s economy and society. John Lee’s book breaks with these weaknesses by deftly and precisely examining the fundamental processes that shape China’s ‘economic miracle’ and the country’s modern evolution. As such, it is a landmark in China studies. It makes no claims but analyses, and as such ought to be taken with utmost seriousness by policy makers and academics.
Lee’s contention is that the PRC’s economy centers not on job creation as it occurs in true capitalist ‘creative destruction’ but on the mobilization of resources to preserve the tens of millions of jobs tied to the state-controlled sectors that provide sustenance to a large part of the ruling class and social base of the Chinese Communist Party. Many are inefficient cradle-to-grave social institutions, not enterprises.
Under circumstances of world recession, the People’s Republic of China’s fading miracle is more likely to fracture than not. It may well add fuel to the rise of malicious chauvinism. Much study is being devoted in Beijing and Shanghai to understand the causes and consequences of ongoing events; much sound advice is being proffered by high-level intellectual advisers. They crash against the real Wall of China—the unilateral claim to power of the power-holders. John Lee is to be highly commended for having demonstrated it in concrete fashion.
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