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China: Fragile Superpower [Kindle Edition]

Susan L. Shirk
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Once a sleeping giant, China today is the world's fastest growing economy--the leading manufacturer of cell phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras--a dramatic turn-around that alarms many Westerners. But in China: Fragile Superpower, Susan L. Shirk opens up the black box of Chinese politics and finds that the real danger lies elsewhere--not in China's astonishing growth, but in the deep insecurity of its leaders. China's leaders face a troubling paradox: the more developed and prosperous the country becomes, the more insecure and threatened they feel. Shirk, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for China, knows many of today's Chinese rulers personally and has studied them for three decades. She offers invaluable insight into how they think--and what they fear. In this revealing book, readers see the world through the eyes of men like President Hu Jintao and former President Jiang Zemin. We discover a fragile communist regime desperate to survive in a society turned upside down by miraculous economic growth and a stunning new openness to the greater world. Indeed, ever since the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, Chinese leaders have been afraid of its own citizens, and this fear motivates many of their decisions when dealing with the U.S. and other nations. In particular, the fervent nationalism of the Chinese people, combined with their passionate resentment of Japan and attachment to Taiwan, have made relations with this country a minefield. The paperback edition features a new preface by the author.


Editorial Reviews

Review


"One of the best books I read on China."--Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times


"Susan Shirk has written the definitive book at the right time. For those seeking an objective look at the new China, your search is over. The bonus is that Fragile Superpower is as fascinating as it is informative. A great accomplishment."--Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State


"Ms. Shirk's magisterial book gazes down on China from above."--The Economist


"Revelatory...Shirk has written an important book at an important moment, with the Beijing Olympics approaching and a new Chinese product scandal breaking practically every week. China: Fragile Superpower should change our assessment of China's leadership, which is a lot less stable than many of us thought."-Washington Post Book World


"Shirk's depth of knowledge about China - including personal acquaintance with many of its leaders - makes this book a valuable read."--Christian Science Monitor


"In her extremely convincing book, she shows that there is another emotional side which, driven by unresolved internal tensions, could still push China into a military confrontation."--Financial Times


"Now more than ever we need a realistic approach for dealing with China's rising power. Susan Shirk has an insider's grasp of China's politics and a firm understanding of what makes its leaders tick. China: Fragile Superpower is an important and necessary book."--Brent Scowcroft, former U.S. National Security Advisor


"In this eye-opening work, Susan Shirk details China's incredible economic progress while lifting the rug on its severe internal problems. She has injected a dose of realism into a distorted vision of China which has been promoted by gushing China watchers who focus on Shanghai's skyline."--James Lilley, Former American Ambassador to South Korea and China


"Although other problems dominate the news today, a rising China presents America's greatest long-term challenge. Susan Shirk's excellent book argues compellingly that it also poses the greatest challenge to China's leaders. How they meet this challenge affects not only China, but also the U.S. and, indeed, the world."--William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense


Review


"One of the best books I read on China."--Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times


"Susan Shirk has written the definitive book at the right time. For those seeking an objective look at the new China, your search is over. The bonus is that Fragile Superpower is as fascinating as it is informative. A great accomplishment."--Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State


"Ms. Shirk's magisterial book gazes down on China from above."--The Economist


"Revelatory...Shirk has written an important book at an important moment, with the Beijing Olympics approaching and a new Chinese product scandal breaking practically every week. China: Fragile Superpower should change our assessment of China's leadership, which is a lot less stable than many of us thought."-Washington Post Book World


"Shirk's depth of knowledge about China - including personal acquaintance with many of its leaders - makes this book a valuable read."--Christian Science Monitor


"In her extremely convincing book, she shows that there is another emotional side which, driven by unresolved internal tensions, could still push China into a military confrontation."--Financial Times


"Now more than ever we need a realistic approach for dealing with China's rising power. Susan Shirk has an insider's grasp of China's politics and a firm understanding of what makes its leaders tick. China: Fragile Superpower is an important and necessary book."--Brent Scowcroft, former U.S. National Security Advisor


"In this eye-opening work, Susan Shirk details China's incredible economic progress while lifting the rug on its severe internal problems. She has injected a dose of realism into a distorted vision of China which has been promoted by gushing China watchers who focus on Shanghai's skyline."--James Lilley, Former American Ambassador to South Korea and China


"Although other problems dominate the news today, a rising China presents America's greatest long-term challenge. Susan Shirk's excellent book argues compellingly that it also poses the greatest challenge to China's leaders. How they meet this challenge affects not only China, but also the U.S. and, indeed, the world."--William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense



Product Details

  • File Size: 1327 KB
  • Print Length: 335 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0195306090
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (July 18, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004S0D2LC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,789 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars China at Times Its Own Worst Enemy July 9, 2007
Format:Hardcover
Susan Shirk gives her readers some useful tools to better assess the future behavior of a fast-resurging China after being "humiliated" for a century and a half (pp. 153 - 55, 185 - 87). Shirk clearly explains that Chinese communist power has two faces. China wants to be seen as behaving responsibly to foster economic growth and social stability (pp. 105 - 139). Shirk correctly states that actions rather than words will make it more credible. Establishing this reputation requires China to accommodate its neighbors, to be a team player in multinational organizations, and to use economic ties to make friends (pp. 109, 199, 223, 257 - 61).

In case of a major crisis, especially one involving Taiwan, Japan or the United States, China could show its other face by acting irresponsibly due to the absence of effective checks and balances of the Chinese system. Party leaders could recklessly play the nationalistic card again as they did with Taiwan in 1996 or with Japan in 2005 if they need to look strong domestically with other leaders, the mass public, and the military (pp. 10 -12, 43, 63, 69, 77, 139, 151, 173, 179 - 80, 186 - 90, 197, 205, 219).

The Communist Party has bet on jingoism since the 1990s because communism in China is a dying ideology in which almost no Chinese believes (pp. 11, 63 - 64, 145, 148, 164 - 70, 186). The Party implausibly claims that ordinary Chinese are unworthy of Western democracy because their country, unlike India, does not have religion to manage them responsibly (p. 53). Chinese leaders know that Chinese nationalists can turn against the Party if they appear too weak to deal with foreign pressures (pp. 61, 66, 173, 180).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect Yet Intriguing August 8, 2010
Format:Paperback
This is a definite pro-China book, but this fact does not detract from the author's long experience and insight into China. The author has a lot to offer, regardless of one's outlook on the issue.

As a result, I encourage people on both sides of the China issue to read this book.

The title is little deceptive (chose by a publisher perhaps?). Upon reading it, one might assume a work about China's corrupt and ruthless industrial infrastructure, its rampant pollution, or the alienation of the peasant population.

No such thing.

The major subject throughout consists of - get this - the problems the Chinese government faces in trying to keep its super-patriotic and anti-western population under control and keeping it from doing (or forcing the government to do) something extreme against the West.

At times, the book's author seems to have been breathing the rarified air of the ivory tower for too long, which seems to have given her an outlook which at times seems somewhat detached from reality or even common sense.

For example, she states that the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda apparatus has bouts of independence and initiative, occasionally acting out on its own and causing anti-foreign rioting which sometimes gets out of control, leaving the Central Committee wagging its head in disbelief.

In another bout of warped reality, she puts the Central Committee (the leadership of China) as constantly subject to the (anti-western) passions of the military, the Congress, students and the Chinese people in general. All these passions aren't at all about internal problems mind you, but about the anger the Chinese feel at the imperialist capitalist countries and their past and present mistreatments of China.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding China August 2, 2007
Format:Hardcover
Few fields of academic endeavor are as determinedly pc as the study of communist China. China academics and intelligence analysts over the years have strived with some success to portray the communist regime in a more benign light than probably is warranted.

Fortunately Susan Shirk''s book--the best work yet to appear on contemporary China-- provides a balanced and thoughtful perspective on the contradictory impulses driving Chinese leadership behavior.As Shirk ably documents, pressures of rapid economic transformatiion, fraying political controls and rabid nationalist sentiment pose difficult challenges for the regime, increasing the potential for conflict with the United States. Shirk pleads for a U.S. China policy based on a better understanding of these constraints, both to lower the risk of war and to improve prospects of Sino-U,S, collaboration on issues of global concern.

This is a perfectly good argument as far as it goes and is relevant not just to China. Russia --economically emergent and increasingly nationalistic-- represents a comparable problem for U.S. policy.The U.S. penchant for Russia-bashing needlessly provokes Russian leaders and publics, heightening East-West tensions and clouding the outlook for peace and security in Europe.

Perfect understanding, of course is not a sure-fire recipe for conflict- avoidance. Washington can "lavish respect on China's leaders" (in the author's words) but there is a host of contentious issues on which it must pursue its own priorities: trade imbalances, contaminated food exports, software piracy, China's military build-up, Taiwan security, massive Chinese espionage operations in the United States, human rights violations and more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars China threat: strong outward, fragile inward!
The era of 'reform and openness' has been creating a different China since 1978. The forces of change unleashed by China's reforms have fundamentally reshaped the state-society... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Koo Tat Kee
4.0 out of 5 stars but a good read as to Chinese domestic issues
A bit simplistic, but a good read as to Chinese domestic issues.
Published 5 months ago by Andrew
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into what drives China
The book gives an in-depth look into China's self image and what drives its internal politics and foreign relations. Read more
Published 13 months ago by D. Cannon
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful. Good Read
I bought this book because it seemed related to my senior thesis (sino-us economic interdependence and its affects on East Asian security). Read more
Published 18 months ago by bookdude
5.0 out of 5 stars The best reference book on China's rise
This book is one of the best books on studying China's rise. both its achievements and social challenges. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Xuecheng Liu
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long
The author could have say the same thing in a shorter and more accurate version. The assumptions are interesting and leads to new reflexion on China, still the books becomes... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Gervais Lavoie
4.0 out of 5 stars China the unstable Juggernaut:
Susan Shirk's book "China Fragile Superpower" is quite interesting. She points out that China's alleged peaceful rise as an economic world power is on shaky ground due to internal... Read more
Published on July 21, 2012 by BlackJack21
2.0 out of 5 stars Dated, boring and superficial
Couldn't continue after reading a few pages. I kept looking for something new in the book
but couldn't. Read more
Published on May 18, 2011 by Bill Stones
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it doom or boom for The Communist Party?
If you only read the title of this book and had to guess what it is about, you would probably assume this book is about how China is a fragile superpower due its unstable political... Read more
Published on May 12, 2011 by Erez Davidi
4.0 out of 5 stars Fragile regime, not superpower
Excellent analysis of current PRC situation, but not what I expected from the title. It's not really about China as an emerging superpower, but as its subtitle says, it's about... Read more
Published on November 12, 2010 by Howard Newcombe
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