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The Gilded Dragon,
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This review is from: Double Paradox: Rapid Growth and Rising Corruption in China (Kindle Edition)
I titled this review "The Gilded Dragon" because late in the book, the author looks at possible parallels between the Age of Robber Barons in America and current Chinese economic development. But before pursuing this, let me make a couple of quick observations.
My first observation is that the prospective reader will learn much about the subject of corruption in China by going over the "Review" and "Product Description" attached to the above Amazon Book entry. My second observation is that it is useful for anyone, me included, to be comfortable coexisting with a paradox when studying China's governing structure and its economy; it would seem Dr. Wedeman is. Maybe that's not so surprising, given that his biography points to his upbringing in South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, and India, plus extensive travel and study time in Taiwan and China.
This book is readable for the general public though it leans quite a bit more towards a doctoral dissertation style of argument, counter argument, with loads of foot notes and extensive bibliography. The "paradox" Dr. Wedeman describes seems to boil down to this: How come the economic theory that a nation whose economy is riddled with corruption will ultimately fail, does not seem to hold in the case of modern China? After reading through this book, with this question oft repeated and many examples of how corruption destroys given, I'm left with the same question: So how come?
The Gilded Age of the Robber Barons seemed to me to be used by the author as a helpful, one might even say hopeful lesson in a possible evolutionary scenario for China. Indeed, the term "progressive" was used to describe how the Victorian Age excesses were brought to heal in America at the turn of the 20th Century. There are at least two things that I feel militate against this analogy.
The first is that in America, even though the excesses of money and power throws segments of America's economy far out of orbit, still there is the solid core of the Constitution stemming from the sovereignty of the individual and its just interpretation of the rule of law that gives a ground of being upon which to adjudicate the wrong doings. China, on the other hand, has its set of laws based on the sovereignty of the ruling Communist party, and thus whatever and whenever it says the law to be.
The other long term problem for the Chinese economy is the Triad, the centuries old tradition of what might be described as the Chinese Mafia, though that greatly understates its size and pervasiveness. The effects of the Triad's corruptive and corrosive effect on China's economy and of the Chinese psyche as it struggles with modern global economic realities is often overlooked, including in this book.
If one defines a paradox as being self-contradictory, than that goes "Double" when wading into the topic of China's economy. I recommend you read this book. Don't expect the paradox to be answered, but expect to be even more drawn into the paradox within a paradox that is today's modern China.
Another book this reviewer has found to be particularly helpful is: "The Party; The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers", by Richard McGregor. Additional good reads are: "Empire of Lies, The Truth about China in the Twenty First Century", by Guy Sorman, and "The Dragon Syndicates, The Global Phenomenon of the Triads", by Martin Booth.