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What the U.S. Can Learn from China: An Open-Minded Guide to Treating Our Greatest Competitor as Our Greatest Teacher [Hardcover]

Ann Lee , Ian Bremmer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 9, 2012 1609941241 978-1609941246 1

While America is still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis, a high unemployment rate, and a surge in government debt, China’s economy is the second largest in the world, and many predict it will surpass the United States’ by 2020. President Obama called China’s rise “a Sputnik moment”—will America seize this moment or continue to treat China as its scapegoat?

Mainstream media and the U.S. government regularly target China as a threat. Rather than viewing China’s power, influence, and contributions to the global economy in a negative light, Ann Lee asks, What can America learn from its competition?

Why did China recover so quickly after the global economic meltdown? What accounts for China’s extraordinary growth, despite one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world? How does the Chinese political system avoid partisan rancor but achieve genuine public accountability? From education to governance to foreign aid, Lee details the policies and practices that have made China a global power and then isolates the ways the United States can use China’s enduring principles to foster much-needed change at home.

This is no whitewash. Lee is fully aware of China’s shortcomings, particularly in the area of human rights. She has relatives who suffered during the Cultural Revolution. But by overemphasizing our differences with China, the United States stands to miss a vital opportunity. Filled with sharp insights and thorough research, What the U.S. Can Learn from China is Lee’s rallying cry for a new approach at a time when learning from one another is the key to surviving and thriving.

Winner of the Gold IPPY award in the category of current events.

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for What the U.S. Can Learn from China

“Ann Lee shows us how the United States can also learn much from the country that will soon have the world’s largest economy. Professor Lee foresaw the ‘Great Recession’ two years before it happened; we should all listen to her now as she describes how China and the United States can work together to shape a safer and more prosperous world.”
—Charlie Kolb, President, Committee for Economic Development, and former Deputy Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Education

“The author makes sensible points about all the topics covered and has interesting points of view about so many issues. A wide-sweeping book that makes engaging reading.”
—William Lewis, Founding Director, McKinsey Global Institute

“A refreshing departure from the unilateral perspective hobbling geopolitical debate. Even those who see major flaws in China’s system will find themselves agreeing with many of Ann Lee’s provocative prescriptions.”
—Joseph Menn, U.S. correspondent, Financial Times, and author of Fatal System Error

“Ann Lee takes issue with those who see China’s rise only as a threat to America and not also as an opportunity. By looking at some of the root policies and attitudes behind China’s recent success, she shows how lessons from China can bring Americans full circle, back to the values and aspirations that made the United States a great country in the first place. Her book adds much-needed nuance to the debates over China’s role in the global economy and as a rising world power.”
—Michele Wucker, President, World Policy Institute

“Misconceptions abound about China and how it works today. Ann Lee’s book takes a fresh and controversial look at the Chinese system and its strengths.”
—Josh Lerner, Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking, Harvard Business School

“Ann Lee’s What the U.S. Can Learn from China is a rare achievement in today’s examinations of U.S.-China relations: it supplements an already sophisticated analysis with a deep cultural understanding that is richly valuable and laudably objective. Ann’s ability to ask the tough questions helps Americans to understand China better and China to see itself clearer.”
—Nancy Yao Maasbach, Executive Director, Yale-China Association

“This book sparkles on literally every page with surprising insights and crucial information that everybody in America—and China—simply must become acquainted with or be reminded of. Whether it be about education, culture, politics and economics, or business, Ms. Lee has much, much more to teach both Americans and Chinese than any of us knew that we had yet to learn.”
—Robert Hockett, Professor of Financial and International Economic Law, Cornell University

“It is no secret that China has become a convenient scapegoat for America’s troubles even as its success is envied. This book has a lofty goal: to reduce the potential for international conflict by increasing Westerners’ understanding of that success. Ann Lee’s well-written analysis shows that China’s success is not merely based on a modern mercantilist policy but rather is due to adoption of best practices from the West—from building social safety nets to conducting business according to international standards. What is most interesting is Lee’s main thesis: America needs to look to China to save itself, by reimporting the lessons the West has forgotten. This is a serious book that should be read as an antidote to all the China-bashing myths circulating in America.”
—L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics, University of Missouri–Kansas City, and Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute

“There are so many insecurities we all share about China; this book brilliantly quantifies and identifies many of them. The author’s perspective is one of the most interesting and unique. This makes the book an extremely compelling read. The message is loud and clear: Americans ignore China at their peril. This book answers so many questions we’re unfortunately afraid to ask.”
—Lawrence G. McDonald, Senior Director, Credit Sales and Trading, Newedge USA, LLC


About the Author

Ann Lee is a professor of finance and economics at New York University and a senior fellow with the public policy think tank Demos. Fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, she was a visiting graduate economics professor at Peking University in 2008. She has also been an investment banker at Bankers Trust and Alex. Brown & Sons and a partner at two multibillion-dollar hedge fund firms. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Forbes, and Businessweek, and she regularly guests on CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg, CNN, NPR, and many other television and radio stations.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1 edition (January 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609941241
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609941246
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #604,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann Lee is an award winning author who discusses global trade issues, international finance, and Sino-American relations. A former investment banker, hedge fund partner, and senior fellow at the think tank Demos, she is a frequent media commentator and keynote speaker around the world. In addition to television and radio appearances on MSNBC, Bloomberg, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox Business, NPR, CCTV, RTTV, and the BBC her op-eds have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Businessweek, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and The American Banker. She has been quoted in hundreds of publications and has been an invited speaker at numerous industry and academic conferences which include Standard Chartered Bank, Google, and the U.S. Treasury Department. Ann is also an adjunct professor of economics and finance at New York University and a former visiting professor at Peking University where she taught macroeconomics and financial derivatives. While she was teaching at Peking University, she also acted as an economic adviser to Chinese economic officials as well as to several large Chinese asset management firms. She was educated at U.C. Berkeley, Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, and Harvard Business School.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The intention of this idealistic, wide-ranging book is to suggest how the US could do better economically by adopting common sense changes inspired by taking a closer look at China's recent history. Ch2 discusses the revival of Confucian values in China and how it helped economic development (chiefly by emphasizing education and self improvement); Lee notes how these values are not very different from those of say Benjamin Franklin, and contrasts them with the post modern values and attitudes that characterize the US today. We have deteriorated and could usefully get back in touch with our roots. Ch3 is partly about the limits of democracy (i.e. that democracy does not guarantee good results, as Zakaria, Chua, etc. have written in their books) and partly about meritocracy, the need for competence and experience in public officials. To adopt these ideas in the US would require major changes in the coverage of our political campaigns, with a focus on candidates' resumes and prior accomplishments instead of on speaking skills and avoidance of bloopers. Obama might have had to serve many more years in the Senate before becoming President (my example, not mentioned in the book), and the careers of politicians would come to resemble the careers of corporate executives, with steady promotions to higher responsibilities as they acquire experience and the respect of their peers. Unfortunately recent GOP debates show that lack of knowledge of foreign affairs is no bar to high poll ratings, and I wonder if this will ever change.

Ch4 is about the need for long term objectives at the national level, and mechanisms to avoid short-termism (mainly in government, but also in business). China has adapted the five-year plan concept to this end, the US would probably have to do it somewhat differently.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The U.S. was conceived as a grand experiment. It effectively re-invented itself with the Civil War and again with the Depression / WW II. Likewise, any organization has to re-invent itself in order to remain vibrant and grow. Analogously, if you look at the constituents of the Dow Jones Industrials, only one company remains from 100 years ago. Companies either re-invent themselves or die. The Author's point throughout the book is that China has embraced the experimental nature of developing an economy with long-term plans that have goals and yardsticks for success. They have a meritocracy, run predominately by engineers, that promotes the best ideas and the execution of those ideas. Meanwhile, the USA has embraced a congress that is run by lawyers and heavily influenced by lobbyists. Estimates of over14,000 registered lobbyists (ratio of registered lobbyists to lawmakers is over 25:1) and thousands more unregistered, highlight the absurdity of the path we are currently pursuing. Think of formerly dominant companies like US Steel, Wang Computers, Xerox or Kodak; they all dominated their respective industries, but were left behind in a rapidly changing world. This is what happens when leadership and ideas become stale. We are in a post-industrial economy clinging to old ideas of a world that is gone. Isn't that exactly what all of the aforementioned companies did?

President George W. Bush initially estimated that the war on Iraq would cost $80 billion. When his chief economic advisor suggested it would be more like $200 billion, he was dismissed. It is currently estimated that the cost will come in at between $2 and $4 TRILLION. My guess is that, this is not tolerated in China or any US corporation and it shouldn't be tolerated HERE.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A visionary providing a positive way forward February 20, 2012
By Al W.
I was fortunate enough to see Ann Lee's recent discussion on BookTV. In her book, Ann gives a very positive view of how the US could be learning from (and how to understand) China's approach. She is not 'endorsing' China but does provide a much more encompassing view. She mentions China's 'softer' approach to foreign relations. Personally, while visiting the Bahamas recently the guide pointed out the fenced/guarded American Embassy. However, a mile or so further on, he was much more effusive about the $30-million Thomas A Robinson National Stadium sports arena ([...]) the Chinese Government gave to the Bahamas. Talking about a difference in foreign relations and perception between the US and China.

Also, from her background in the Financial Markets she makes interesting observations of how to develop economy. In one instance, how China has achieved green power cost reduction to about a 20% premium over dirty power. In fact, she mentions it is likely that solar becomes cheaper in the near term in China.

She objectively points out issues in China, but at the same time, realizes their issues do not present a myopic reason to conclude that there is nothing to be learned.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Before I even opened this book, the title challenged me to confront a long-held belief that America's experiment with democracy and self-government had become the envy of the world and to wonder if the author had things backward. What could America possibly learn from a country that was only recently emerging as a world power and also had been one of it's arch enemies during most of the second-half of the 20th century? And what about the whole notion of America being founded out of resistance to the example of government practiced by Britain specifically and most of Europe in general? To my delight, the author addresses these questions and numerous other cultural biases regarding China and America in her engaging and provocative book. She makes compelling arguments for why we must not lose sight of ourselves in our oft-cited role as the world leader and last remaining superpower; and her choice of looking at China, or what her subtitle calls 'our greatest competitor', for guidance rather than, say, a western European example, adds strength to her assertion that America has become too complacent and smug and must make changes to maintain its dominance in an increasingly competitive, global community. And she begins with an introduction titled, 'A New Year's Resolution', which, being that it's early January and the time of year to reflect on the past and future, I found to be all the more reason to open her book. And her arguments build traction in the following chapters as she lays out her personal story as a first generation immigrant from Hong Kong and employs her keen powers of analysis to dissect and expose the inner-workings of markets, politics, and cultural ideologies in both countries. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
Dear editor, kindly publish and distribute following important China dream... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Francis Fung
4.0 out of 5 stars Hubris and Ego may cause the U.S. to miss an opportunity
I had the pleasure of seeing Professor Lee at a recent Harvard Business School Alumni presentation where she was the guest speaker. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dave Kinnear
4.0 out of 5 stars Learning from each other over time
This book grew on me as I read it. But I think its title is misleading. The bulk of the book is NOT about what the U.S. can learn from China. Read more
Published 13 months ago by George Fulmore
1.0 out of 5 stars Being stupid is tolerable, but pretend to be stupid is not
The author recently argues that China's real estate has no bubble, which causes an overwhelming discontent against such an obvious stupid logic within China. Read more
Published 15 months ago by morningvillage
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Insights on Economics but Not Foreign Policy
I read this book with great anticipation, as it is the first to turn the mirror on American economic policy and planning, from a comparative perspective involving China, and it... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Rick
5.0 out of 5 stars Insiders view from a professional
Easy read and eye opening view of how well China
has done to lift there country from poverty 50 years
ago to a nation operating on all cylinders today.
Published 18 months ago by Noel Castiglia
4.0 out of 5 stars Iconoclastic report on why America should adopt Chinese-style state...
In the late 1970s, China first began to open its economy and edge toward capitalism - a process that, perhaps, evolved into a conscious policy direction only when Deng Xiaoping... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Rolf Dobelli
1.0 out of 5 stars naïve at best, propaghanda at worst
I don't want my money back, I want my time back. Not one original observation in this piece of CCP tripe. Read more
Published on March 31, 2012 by jrb
5.0 out of 5 stars Timely and valuable....an excellent book of ideas, thoughts and...
Professor Lee has thoughtfully put forth an important and timely contribution to the East - West, China - U.S. Read more
Published on March 27, 2012 by Kevin M. Goldstein
2.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight, Lacking Credibility
I bought this book after hearing the author interviewed on the radio. I was disappointed.

I read a lot of history. Read more
Published on March 12, 2012 by Gryphonisle
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