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As China Goes, So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers Are Transforming Everything Hardcover – November 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Although China remains nominally socialist, consumerism has become deeply entrenched, the ramifications of which will be considerable--and global--according to Gerth (China Made), Oxford University professor of modern Chinese history. He paints a vivid picture--and historical context--for the waning of frugality and the traditionally high rates of saving and the rise of pop culture, luxury-brand consumption and car culture, a burgeoning advertising industry, the ubiquity of Chinese counterfeits, and--more sordidly--the development of the largest commercial sex work force in the world, the theft of baby girls for adoption export, and the sale of essential organs. Gerth makes an arresting argument that Chinese consumption may be the panacea for the scrabbling economies of the West; Chinese demand for American and European high-tech goods, financial services, and other products might create jobs and economic growth and, in turn, lead to a stable, increasingly capitalistic, and eventually democratic China. Required reading for those interested in shifting global power dynamics and current consumption patterns. (Nov.) (c)
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The austere China Gerth experienced as a 1980s student contrasts with the economically charging country he teaches today as a professor in Britain. Interested in consumerism, Gerth delves into the effects individuals’ purchasing preferences are producing on China; the domestic and international political impact of Chinese growth is not addressed—for that, see The Beijing Consensus, by Stefan Halper (2010). To initiate his observations, Gerth typically seizes on something that didn’t exist in his student days: for example, beauty salons, private automobiles, or disposable chopsticks. Businesses and entire industries that have arisen to meet consumers’ desire for such products and services generate Gerth’s discourse, which he researched from Chinese media and discussion with his contacts. Mao’s China recedes to distant memory in the resulting depiction of capitalistic construction, ubiquitous advertising, and status-conscious shopping. Certain consequences of Chinese consumerism do not escape Gerth’s acuity: he spots social resentments, piracy of intellectual property, pollution, and “extreme markets” (trade in sex, human organs, and adoptions) as problems. Describing the present, Gerth will sensitize business or tourist travelers to Chinese markets. --Gilbert Taylor
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Top customer reviews
The books argument is that change has come to China from the ground up. As events have played out over the past few year, the argument is sound.
The author is very familiar with China, his first visit was as a university student in 1986, so he has some interesting comparisons between those earlier days of the economic reformation and the current status of their new, improved economy. But the main takeaway for me was that main theme, of how the vastly increased consumerism of over a billion people will impact, and has already impacted, both China and the world. As I got into the book a few pages, I felt like slapping myself on the forehead and saying, "Damn, this seems pretty obvious now that he's laying out the case for it, why didn't I even think about any of this?" I think the author does an admirable job of addressing the pros and cons of this new consumerism, it is neither abjectly fawning nor is it end-of-the world gloom and doom. Fair and balanced comes to mind, but I think that phrase has already been appropriated.
And on a more subjective note, for me the book was just plain ol' fun to read, it held my interest from beginning to end, and all points in between. I started reading it one afternoon and finished it up the next morning. It's an easy read, especially for a nonfiction book, sometimes books like this can be written in a dry, academic tone, but that's not the case here. You will learn a lot from this book, without feeling like you are being beaten over the head with the blunt instrument of facts and figures. I have long had an interest in other peoples, places, and how they live, so I was predisposed to liking the book, but I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I have to agree with one of the other reviewers, who mentioned that he was surprised at how few reviews this book had received. I was expecting to see dozens of reviews, at the very least. Anyway, this is a very good book, do yourself a favor and read it.
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The author teaches modern Chinese history at Oxford University and has written one previous book on China.Read more