Playing Our Game: Why China's Economic Rise Doesn't Threaten the West

Playing Our Game: Why China's Economic Rise Doesn't Threaten the West

Playing Our Game: Why China's Economic Rise Doesn't Threaten the West

Playing Our Game: Why China's Economic Rise Doesn't Threaten the West


Conventional wisdom holds that China's burgeoning economic power has reduced the United States to little more than a customer and borrower of Beijing. The rise of China, many feel, necessarily means the decline of the West--the United States in particular.

Not so, writes Edward Steinfeld. If anything, China's economic emergence is good for America. In this fascinating new book, Steinfeld asserts that China's growth is fortifying American commercial supremacy, because (as the title says) China is playing our game. By seeking to realize its dream of modernization by integrating itself into the Western economic order, China is playing by our rules, reinforcing the dominance of our companies and regulatory institutions. The impact of the outside world has been largely beneficial to China's development, but also enormously disruptive. China has in many ways handed over--outsourced--the remaking of its domestic economy and domestic institutions to foreign companies and foreign rule-making authorities. For Chinese companies now, participation in global production also means obedience to foreign rules. At the same time, even as these companies assemble products for export to the West, the most valuable components for those products come from the West. America's share of global manufacturing, by value, has actually increased since 1990. Within China, the R&D centers established by Western companies attract the country's best scientists and engineers, and harness that talent to global, rather than indigenous Chinese, innovation efforts. In many ways, both Chinese and American society are benefiting as a result. That said, the pressures on China are intense. China is modeling its economy on the United States, with vast consequences in a country with a small fraction of America's per-capita income and scarcely any social safety net. Walmartization is not something that Asian manufacturing power is doing to us; rather, it is how we are transforming China.

From outsourcing to energy, Steinfeld overturns the conventional wisdom in this incisive and richly researched account.


1989 to 2009: Two Decades,
One Quantum Leap

In the summer of 1989, I arrived in China for a one-year stay as a visiting faculty member at a major Chinese university. Two decades have passed since then, a blink of the eye in the grand sweep of things. Yet, the China of twenty years ago is so far removed from the present as to feel like a distant dream, a sort of alternate universe to what we witness today. Had you in 1989 predicted that China twenty years down the road would look the way it does today, you would have been laughed from the room and with good reason. the things we take for granted in present-day rising China—the phenomenal growth rates, the high levels of exports, the vast foreign exchange reserves, and the sheer robustness of the system even in the face of serious worldwide recession—extraordinary though they may be, are the least of it. These are but surface manifestations of far deeper changes in China’s social, political, and economic core. Chinese society in its most fundamental relationships—that between citizen and state, citizen and economy, and citizen and fellow citizen— has undergone a profound revolution. That revolution, China’s capitalist embrace, is the subject of this book.

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