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What Does China Think? Hardcover – April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Commonly characterized as a juggernaut monomaniacally focused on breakneck economic growth, China is actually riven by a lively, far-reaching debate over its future, argues this inquisitive study. Leonard (Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century) divides Chinese intellectuals into a New Right that wants to extend laissez-faire market reforms and an increasingly influential New Left that decries rising inequality, corruption and environmental destruction and wants a strong government to rein in capitalist elites and protect workers. Meanwhile, political reformers push cautiously for local and Communist Party elections against a consensus that associates democracy with chaotic mob rule or national dismemberment. China's foreign policy is split between liberal internationalists and truculent neo-comms who contend that China must be ready to use force against its enemies. The author notes that these ideological divisions resemble those in Western countries, but emphasizes the distinctiveness of Chinese ideas, like the concept of the deliberative dictatorship of a one-party state that stays responsive to popular pressures, or a Walled World where globalization enhances rather than erodes the autonomy of national governments. Leonard's is a lucid, eye-opening account of China's intellectual scene and its growing importance to the world. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"An inquisitive study.... Leonard's is a lucid, eye-opening account of China's intellectual scene and its growing importance to the world." -- Publishers Weekly, March 23, 2008

"Useful reading for students of contemporary politics and international affairs." -- Kirkus, March 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586484842
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484842
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,317,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Littrell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
To get a perspective on what some Chinese political theorists are thinking, consider this: While Westerners "anguish" about how to manage China's rise, Chinese think-tankers debate about "how to manage the West's decline"! Wang Yiwei, from Fudan University, shares this worry, and asks, "How can we prevent the USA from declining too quickly?" (pp. 115-116)

What this book attempts to provide is a Chinese perspective on the rise of China and its place in the world as it has grown from a largely agrarian society in the days of Mao to a superpower of the 21st century. To do this, Mark Leonard, who wrote "Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century," traveled in China and interviewed many of China's leading thinkers on politics and economics. A number of these scholars have advanced degrees from American universities. They have taken Western ideas back to China and incorporated them into traditional Chinese ways of thinking, consistent with the dictates of the ruling Communist Party. Leonard shows that within this unique political culture there have arisen various points of view, from the "New Right" of, e.g., Zhang Weiying, to the "New Left" of, e.g., Wang Hui, from ideas about the "peaceful rise" of China to notions more in keeping with the thinking of the so-called "neo-comms." Part of the debate is about the use of military power, part of it is about how to influence other countries, and part of it is about how to manage its own people.

Since Deng Xiaoping opted for a market economy within the political dictatorship, the growth of China has been extraordinary.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By David Stinson on October 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I borrowed this book from a friend, and I haven't read all of it yet. I would just like to say though that this book is very unique in all the China literature I've been able to find, for a couple of reasons. First of all, it approaches China from an kind of humanistic point of view. A lot of commentary seems to simply treat the Communist regime as an impenetrable black box, or reduce their motivations to a couple of simplistic dimensions. This book undertakes a systematic study of Chinese political ideology, which is a fairly few thing. Secondly, it only studies political ideologies that seem to have any chance of being relevant in China. A lot of China analysis looks at things like peasant revolts, or dissident voices, as shaping China's future, without offering any evidence that anyone in the central regime even cares what they think. This book works the other way, starting out first by finding which voices the government is actually listening to. These are very simple premises, but I've been having difficulty finding any literature both as interesting and objective as this.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By nichi 24 on October 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mark Leonard's research provides readers with the voices of Chinese intellectuals not commonly read about in `western' academia. His book, "What Does China Think" paints stripes around the status of Chinese development in the ever-changing era of transnational globalization outlining its multi-faceted approach to making reforms through the implementation of various experiments throughout China. Leonard goes on to highlight the differences in the emerging political ideologies of the `neo-comm' to the `liberal internationalist', and the challenges facing the current hegemonic power of the United States while South-East Asia develops into a global superpower.
This book provided me with the insight I was looking for, detailed information about the development of China from the Chinese perspective. Leonard does a great job weaving together the information gathered from a variety of Chinese intellectuals with current globalization theories. A must-read for anyone interested in Chinese current affairs.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Frank S. Fang on December 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good book, the author takes great effort in accounting what the Chinese intellectuals are really thinking--a subject that most western observers didn't really care much.

When talking about the "China Model", however, what's in the author's mind is "the rise of Europe", or to be more exact, "the best from the West". And so the Chinese are just learning from the "best" of either the market economy or the democratic system. Here, none of the western intellectual bias are seen avoided. In the end, too much attention has been paid to the Chinese intellectuals, that is, too much to the "book culture", and too little to the real "institutional changes" (the "reality culture"), and certainly, too little to some conscientious self-examination of the western democracy and free market mechanism (from which the current financial crisis is derived).

What people think matters, but the real issue is: how are we thinking what we are thinking? The key is "institutions", not just the conventional "right" or "left" ideaology.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Writing a negative book review is much easier than writing a positive one. This is why I put off writing something nice for Mark Leonard's "What does China think" for so long. Why bother read my review, really? Just go and read the book!

For those of you who are not into reading, the book is quite thin, though amazingly informative. If you are scratching your head for a China strategy for your business, but have not yet come up with one, this book is a "must read" assignment. Even if you are Chinese and/or well versed in current Chinese affairs, you will still find the book worthwhile.

Instead of validating himself as a qualified voice on China, Mr. Leonard let the indigenous Chinese intellectuals speak to the Western audience through his book without tinting the content with Western bias. Acting as an intelligent mediator, he was able to highlight the insiders as well as the issues, that made up the crucial forces in powering the intricate Chinese policy machine.

"Since the time when French and British missionaries first travelled to the East, the West has focused on what it wanted from China - and how to convert the Chinese to a Western way of life. People wrongly assumed that as China grew richer, it would also become more like us." Mr. Leonard states in his introduction.

Too often, Western observers (intellectuals included) are too narcissistic and consumed with their own interpretations of the China phenomenon to investigate what the Chinese are thinking and saying. Meanwhile, the Western media is flooded with misrepresented information in tabloid on a country everyone is so eager to learn about and understand. This vicious cycle continues as ignorance spreads.

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