At a time when much writing about China frothily presumes the unstoppable rise of a global titan, it is refreshing that a respected academic and former government official (Shirk was the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia during the second Clinton administration) questions the notion that China is going to run the world. “China may be an emerging superpower,” she writes, “but it is a fragile one.”
Inside China, she argues, the party leadership is hemmed in by threats to its stability: a rapidly aging population, the rise of the Internet, privatization of the economy, a widening gap between urban rich and rural poor, a restive population fed up with corruption, pollution that not only sickens but kills, mounting unemployment in an economy that needs to grow 7 percent annually just to provide jobs for 25 million new people entering the workforce. “All around them,” Shirk contends, “the leaders see new social forces unleashed by economic reforms that could subvert the regime.” [Full text]
Read also CDT’s interview with Shirk about the book.