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The Coming Collapse of China Hardcover – July 31, 2001

2.5 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews

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From 1978 through the mid-1990s, China had the fastest-growing economy in the world, and it appeared poised to dominate Asia, and beyond, in the near future. But after focusing on facts rather than theory and looking at the conditions behind the spectacular numbers, Gordon Chang presents the People's Republic as a study in wasted potential: "Peer beneath the surface, and there is a weak China, one that is in long-term decline and even on the verge of collapse. The symptoms of decay are to be seen everywhere." For a nation that has always taken a long view of history, time is quickly running out. Chang believes China has about five years to get its economy in order before it suffers a crippling financial collapse--a timeline he seriously doubts can be met.

By failing to complete its reformation, China has maintained an illusion of progress, Chang explains, but in reality has caused more problems than opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs and foreign investors. Because reform has not been fast enough or comprehensive enough, China is unable to benefit from its modernization or keep up technologically with much of the world. The government's reluctance to get rid of state-owned enterprises has not only rendered China uncompetitive just as it prepares to join the World Trade Organization, but is causing the banks--which were forced to lend money to SOEs--to fail alongside them. Widespread unemployment, corruption within the Communist party, millions of resentful peasants, and a general lack of leadership further threaten stability. The Communist party "knows how to suppress but it no longer has the power to lead," Chang writes, arguing that the party is maintaining control only through the use of brute force and the people's instinct for obedience--popular support that could deteriorate as soon as the economy plunges. Simultaneously, societal ills such as gambling, drugs, and prostitution have become huge problems.

Stuck between Communism and capitalism, "China is drifting, unwilling to go forward as fast as it must and unable to turn back." It is uncertain what will be in the way when the giant finally falls. --Shawn Carkonen

From Publishers Weekly

redicting the rapid fall of the Communist government, Chang, counsel to an American law firm in Shanghai and freelance journalist with the New York Times, the Asian Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, attempts to support his prediction by discussing a number of phenomena in China: the volatile discontent of political minorities and the unemployed; the futility of state-owned enterprises and industrial policies; the vulnerability of the private sector and the WTO economy; the threats the Internet poses to party censorship; the dangers lurking behind the banking system; and the failing role of Marxist ideology. By maintaining power at all costs and suppressing dissent, the regime, Chang says, has jeopardized the economy and Chinese society at large. His adept business policy evaluation and socioeconomic criticism ("Party cadres... insist on commanding as if they still had a command economy") connect names and anecdotes with otherwise abstract social ills. But his success ends there, for his sweeping historical analyses and social forecasts falter. "Today the people no longer want Mao's revolution or the party that administers it. And so the People's Republic is going to fall, just like its predecessors," writes Chang, hastily recounting the quick endings of the Qing Dynasty and the Kuomintang. His invocations of the "power of the Chinese people," or of an imaginary individual who will one day "end the Chinese state as it now exists," read more like political soap opera than judicious analyses. Preoccupied with such rhetorical (and often highly cynical) flourishes, he fails to pay adequate attention to something that would have better supported his predictions: the imminent intra-Party power turnover in 2002. Chang needs more than denunciations and calls for change to support his bold prophetic claims. (On-sale date: Aug. 14)

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (July 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037550477X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375504778
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #875,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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One might make a prediction or two about the fate of the world in the comfort of one's home, among one's close friends and family after a couple of stiff drinks and no one could care less about them in a day or two. Gordon Chang made the mistake of writing a book about his predictions of China so that for as long as he shall live, people could hold his predictions against him. This reader wouldn't really care about someon who thinks he knows a thing or two about China simply because he's of Chinese descent but for the fact that 10 years after the book was written, the collapse (which was supposed to take place within ten years from when the book was written) as predicted by the author still has not happened and the forecaster is nevertheless being interviewed by Western media as some China "expert".

China no doubt has many problems, some hidden from outsiders' view but some of the key predictions made in the book - China's economy was to be destroyed by its inefficient state owned enterprises, the Communist party was soon going to be overthrown by the people whom it rules with an iron fist, joining the WTO was going to completely expose China's lack of competitiveness and destroy its economy, and the internet was going to usher in an era of unprecedented free discourse which would eventually lead to democracy - have turned out to be completely wrong (and some to the detriment of China's people and the rest of the world). In fact, one would have trouble being more wrong making predictions about anything, including the weather and the timing of the end of the world.

Why was Chang so off?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Remember the names? THE WARNING: THE COMING GREAT CRASH IN THE STOCK MARKET, Y2K - IT'S ALREADY TOO LATE, CONQUER THE CRASH, THE COMING CRASH IN THE HOUSING MARKET, PATRIOTS: SURVIVING THE COMING CRASH, THE COMING COLLAPSE OF THE DOLLAR AND HOW TO PROFIT FROM IT, and, of course, the greatest (and silliest) doomsday collection of all time, THE LEFT BEHIND SERIES. Doom will always have its day, Chicken Littles will watch and read and fret, authors and publishers will collect their take, and the unfilled prophecies of ruin will soon be forgotten in the wake of a newer batch. And thus it is with Gordon Chang's THE COMING COLLAPSE OF CHINA.

Published in 2001, Chang argues that China's deeply entrenched and long-standing economic difficulties, the Communist Pary's intransigence and desperate efforts at self-preservation, and the country's coming accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will combine to create the necessary conditions for revolution and overthrow. All that will be needed will be the right spark and the emergence of the right leader to take advantage. The thesis is, of course, plausible enough, but what doomsday prophecy doesn't have its elements of plausibility? Marshal enough arguments on one side of any issue and ignore the counterbalancing factors, and any situation can start looking like an imminent crisis.

This type of one-sided presentation is, unfortunately, precisely what Mr. Chang gives us.
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By A Customer on May 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Having read this book only recently (almost three years after its publication); it is now much easier for me to comment where the author has got it wrong. However, as an Indian working in Singapore (and have worked in India earlier) and tracking China closely in the recent past has given me the perspective to see the fundamental weak points of his outlook.
Corrupt governance, inefficient state owned enterprises, rural poverty, separatist movements, non-performing loans, stumbling reforms process - Gordon Chang sees this in communist China while it also describes the condition in democratic India. You cannot lay the blame for this at the doorstep of communism as a political system, since a vibrant democracy like India suffers the same. All the same, both these Asian giants will undoubtedly be the engines of global growth for decades to come - either with government help or without. And as the communist party has smartly understood - economic performance can guarantee its survival. Though a market economy, Singapore is very much a one-party totalitarian political system with extremely restricted freedom of press and political thought. Yet, there is no need felt for political upheaval from the locals, who are mostly of "Chinese" origin. Though, the scale might be different, Singapore has shown that economic performance can allow the existence of benign totalitarian regimes. And China will perform economically! WTO has shown no apparent ill-effects. Yes, there are risks. Yes, there are growing economic disparities. Yes, there is still an ongoing process of painful readjustment. However, to translate that into a forecast of China's collapse almost smacks of "wishful" thinking on the author's part. All the same, if you want to balance the current hype over China's outlook where most unresearched articles gloss over China's systemic weaknesses, read this book ... but dont accept it at face value.
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