Academic journal article Journal of International Business Ethics

The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State/What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the Modern Chinese Consumer/China in Ten Words

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Ethics

The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State/What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the Modern Chinese Consumer/China in Ten Words

Article excerpt

The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State by Zhang Wei Wei World Century Publishing Corporation (June 14, 2012) ISBN 1938134001,978-1938134005 Hardcover, 208 pages

What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and the Modern Chinese Consumer by Tom Doctoroff Palgrave Macmillan (May 22, 2012) ISBN 023034030X, 978-0230340305 Hardcover, 272 pages

China in Ten Words by Yu Hua (Translated by Allan H. Barr) Vintage (August 21, 2012) ISBN 0307739791, 978-0307739797 Paperback, 240 pages

How will Modernity change China?

The whole world is intrigued by this question - both Chinese and non-Chinese and whether you are in favour of or fear the rise of China. Will modernity make China more like the West or, if not, how will the Chinese model differ? Behind the global interest lies the economic question - will a change in China lead to a slowdown or an acceleration of growth or will it be much of the same, maintaining China's blistering economic growth of the last 30-odd years? Because of its size, any change in growth rate will have a knock-on effect on the growth of other countries.

All three books give short shrift to the possibility that China will become like the West, that it will develop a rampant individualism which finds its expression in the liberal democratic form of government, the rule of law and free market capitalism. The chances of this happening have been dampened by the current Great Recession caused by the economic implosion that began in the US in 2007.

The China Wave

But, according to Zhang Wei Wei, who had been Deng Xiaoping's interpreter when he made the fateful decision for "opening up" China, there is a powerful faction within China itself which is still arguing for China to adopt Western policies. This fierce debate is an echo of the May 5 Movement in 1919 when Chinese intellectuals turned against their own tradition and blamed Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism for being the forces that held China back from developing. The argument today is that while the Chinese education system turns out obedient workers that have helped to turn China into the "workshop of the world", it is not capable of producing creative individuals, like Steve Jobs, who could lead the re-invention of the country to meet the needs of the future.

Zhang disputes the pro- West view, arguing that "China should continue to follow its own largely successful model of development while assimilating whatever is good from the outside", mainly because, unlike Western countries, China is not a "nation state" but a "civilization" in the guise of a state.

This "civilization state" was first expressed by Martin Jacques in his book "When China Rules the World", which was reviewed in an earlier edition of this Journal (JIBE 2(2), 2009). Zhang even follows Jacques in having eight points (he has two sets while Jacques has one!) to support his thesis. But apart from the civilization state concept, Zhang differs from Jacques on other issues, especially in respect of imperial China's system of treating its smaller neighbours as "tributary" states - i.e. states that seek its protection by voluntarily offering it annual "tributes" in the form of gifts. Zhang asserts that China will never revert to this feudalistic system. This is comforting to all those Asian states that have territorial disputes with China over offshore islands in the Western Pacific as they all prefer the Westphalian system that regards all nation states as equal.

Zhang's eight reasons why China has to develop differently from all other "nation states" are what he characterized as the four "Supers" and four "Uniques" of China. The four "Supers" are, first, the sheer size of China's population which is larger than the combined population of the US, the EU and the Anglo-Saxon states of Canada, Australia and New Zealand! Historically, it has also had a unified government for some 2,500 years, making it different from India which may have the same size of population but was only united under British colonialism. …

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