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Showing 1-10 of 10 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 28 reviews
on May 17, 2013
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. The bulk of the book is really about how the U.S. and China differ and/or are at differing points in their history and individual development.

There is a ton of U.S.-bashing throughout the book, most of it true and worth mentioning. But there clearly is not equal time spent bashing China, which surely has its faults, as well. If this were done, of course, the book would probably come out a draw, with little-to-no purpose.

So, let's accept things as they are: The book is slanted toward telling us how great China is and how full of holes the U.S. is and how the U.S. can get better by learning from the Chinese. But the real thesis may be that China has options to adopt, modify or reject what the U.S. has done so far, then try to copy, improve or not do at all some things as it develops. In other words, the goal of China cannot to be another U.S., nor should it be to be better in every way.
Beginning with the Preface, we are given two key points: 1) China is not going away, and 2) The rise of China does not imply "the fall of the American experiment." Implied is that Americans need be open-minded with all this, that China is NOT the enemy, and that the U.S. must have confidence in its future, relative to China. It is pointed out that, somewhat ironically, few Americans know that many of its founders, including Benjamin Franklin, advocated Confucian principles, a primary theme of which is that individuals should cultivate a lifetime of self-improvement for the benefit of society.

Ann Lee, the author, emigrated from Hong Kong to the U.S. when she was only in the second grade. What is that, about age 7? She has grown up understanding both cultures. Today, she is a professor of finance and economics at New York University, and she is glad to be an American.

She returned to China in 1985 to experience poverty there in her extended family, plus "...people traveled by foot or bicycle, and everyone wore navy-blue Mao suits." She was told, firsthand, by family members about the Cultural Revolution and about books being burned and people forced out of their homes and into common-labor jobs. She returned again in 1995, this time to Shanghai, where she experience a much more modern China, one that, she was told, was no longer reading people's mail or following people. And she was a professor at Peking University in 2008.
In many ways, the author sees China progressing similar to the U.S. But, over the past 30 years, it has progressed on an unprecedented pace and scale.

She admits that China is fighting growing inequality amongst its populous, despite its efforts to remove hundreds of millions from poverty. It fights corruption amongst Party officials. It has challenges in education, health care, the court system and more. But Lee believes that the Chinese believe in meritocracy, and that there is a great deal of freedom of dissent and discussion. And she defends the lack of a national democracy, in light of the massive efforts by its central government to better the lives of the people. She says the one-party system allows government officials to "focus on long-term strategic planning."

In this light, the Chinese government is in the middle of its 13th Five-Year Plan, something that the U.S. is unable to do because of its short election cycles. But she points out that the U.S. has had past periods of being exceptional; for example, during The New Deal; although, she incorrectly attributes the initiative for building Hoover Dam to the New Deal, as such. She also applauds the Marshall Plan as an excellent effort by the U.S. to improve the world economy after WWII. And the Peace Corps scores points for its obvious efforts in developing countries.

As for China's educated talent pool, it is well-aware that about one in three Chinese university students who travel to the U.S. to study do not return. To counter this, the Chinese government now has recruiting efforts to hire Chinese nationals as well as others from the American talent base. She predicts that these efforts will be more and more successful, but she warns that the marketplace in China is fiercely competitive, more like the way the U.S. used to be. But she also thinks that China's deep pockets can help to change the way the world views short-term vs. long-term investments.

She tells us about the success of the Special Economic Zones under Premier Deng Xiao Ping, which took place after the economic failures and the death of Mao Zedong. She says that China does not want nor allow "hot money" to simply swoop in to buy and sell things for paper profits in China. Instead, China wants "investments" to be real, to create real structures and/or enterprises. Additionally, she would claim that Chinese citizens are given little opportunity to specular or squander their savings.

Lee also thinks that it is China that deserves credit for turning around the great worldwide recession in 2007-2010. China had the money to embark on an infrastructure binge that required people, ideas and products from around the world. Implementation of many massive infrastructure projects in China had a great deal to do with the worldwide economic turnaround. In short, China poured tons of money into the world economy in a time of great need. And it was really the only country in the world that was prepared to do so. In contrast, the U.S. Federal Reserve lent money to banks and other institutions at rock-bottom rates. But the banks were reluctant to loan money; instead, they used the money to invest in sure-thing, short-term deals, primarily to improve the profits and stock prices of the institutions, themselves.

Lee feels that spending money on real projects was a more effective strategy in ending the worldwide recession. In this light, she tells us that the Chinese are getting better and better at investing in infrastructure projects around the world, many times not expecting anything in return.
As for hard currency, China intends to protect its currency from manipulation and speculation. Chinese leaders have called for a worldwide currency that cannot be controlled primarily by the U.S. She denies that the Chinese manipulate its currency, as such.

Lee feels that all nations need to work together to make things work. There is little room for egos and/or hurt feelings or insecurities. She is well-aware of the dangers and wastes of warfare. She thinks that China may be essential in keeping countries away from each other's throats, and that extensive cooperation between the U.S. and China may be the key to continued world peace.
She says that China knows that it needs to grow its middle-class, but she also says that the world needs a growing Chinese middle-class.

Finally, in the short Epilogue at the end of the book, the author devotes a section to telling us of some ways in which the U.S. is still better than China, and that "the U.S. still does some things right."

But there is only so much time in this short review to tell you about the book, which is full of historic details and insights. Again, I think its strength lies in the way it contrasts what China is doing and/or has done, in light of American history. Not all of her arguments are sound, and not always does she present information objectively. My point is that I found a great deal of meat on the bones in this book. I enjoyed the read, and I recommend it to others.
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on December 21, 2014
Great book. I've always wanted to get a little deeper to understand China's extraordinary economic growth. This book provides a great analysis of the situation and lessons that could be very useful to U.S leaders in conducting it's policy.

The hole world hopes that China will eventually incorporate democratic principles in it's political system, becomes a peaceful force in the world and that it's economic growth can be translated in prosperity for it's people. But until then, the truth is that we still cannot trust China with an authoritarian regime. United States can't afford to lose it's military hegemony.
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on May 18, 2016
Professor Ann Lee outlines a few ways the U.S.A. could potentially improve by emulating China. I don't agree with her on everything but she does provide a fresh perspective that is stimulating for discussion.
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on October 2, 2015
Ann Lee's exceptional command of the English language and forceful logic exposes many myths that we have of China. The stark reality is that the past 30 years has seen them grow in countless areas. Areas that we would do well to emulate. A page turner with many facts that will raise your eyebrows and make you wonder why we aren't doing what they're doing both culturally and politically. Ann Lee has done America a service in bringing this all to our attention. If only we can take notice and act upon her suggestions!
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on October 27, 2014
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on January 6, 2013
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.
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on December 24, 2011
It is a well written book about what US can learn from China. However, I think it simplified the tasks involved with a democratic society. China is controlled by an evil party with absolute power over its people. US is basically controlled by a group of media, political and financial elites but countered with a relatively well educated mass population. The recent Tea Party movement illustrated the influence of the mass. Of course, there is no perfect political system in this world. All in all, I prefer our own system much better than Chinese system. We do need to modify our system some what in order to compete in this imperfect world. I think her book shows us where the modifications should be. It is a provocative book for sure.
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on June 11, 2014
Dear editor, kindly publish and distribute following important China dream discussion topics:
Harmony Renaissance: Revival of harmony philosophy ancient or modern for multipolar national cultural identity and world peace and harmony. For more details please refer to World Harmony Organization and Francis C W Fung publications. UPDATED 20 CHINA
China Dream: Revival of Chinese nation for national dignity and multipolar world peace and harmony. For more details on China dream please refer to summary of President Xi's statements.
1) China dream, harmony renaissance essential for China and global peace and China revival.
2) China dream and harmony renaissance together means Chinese soft power.
3) China must continue harmony renaissance for survival against U S criticism
4) China must be proactive on harmony renaissance not to be contained by U.S. liberal democracy
5) China dream, resolve south China sea dispute by harmony diplomacy
6) ancient Chinese thought, modern Chinese softpower through harmony renaissance
7) Harmony renaissance is the spirit of China dream, dream with in a dream
8) Harmony renaissance vs liberal democracy thought in 21st century.
9) Rally around harmony renaissance to rebuild a Chinese civilization state
10) Can China survive without harmony renaissance under U.S. democracy assault?
11) Survival of the fittest demands China dream to include harmony renaissance.
12) Without harmony renaissance China dream is empty
13) "China is unlikely to become a superpower because it lacked an independent ideology with global clout" according to Margret Thatcher.
14) China will remain a "small country" without harmony renaissance despite economic growth.
15) China dream means 21st century multipolar world, peace and world harmony.
16) Harmony renaissance is the missing ancient Chinese ideology with global clout Margret Thatcher is referring to.
17) Harmony renaissance is the revival of Chinese cultural value ,ancient and modern.
18) The Chinese dream with harmony renaissance can enrich world civilization.
19) Harmony renaissance adds spiritual life and perspective to China dream.
20) Harmony Renaissance will be a preferred balance to U.S. relentless and powerful push of liberal democracy ideology on other countries in a multipolar world.
21) China dreams mean democratic world order and multipolar world peace and harmony.
22) Sun Yet Sen and Nationalist party empowered the elite, Mao Zedong empowered women and the masses, Deng Xiaoping’s reform and open up empowered the economy and rule and order, the final movement in the symphony of Chinese modernization is to empower China’s soul and spirit with China dream and harmony renaissance.
Best of Harmony
Francis C W Fung, Ph.D.
Director General
World Harmony Organization
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on December 3, 2011
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. Ch5 (one of the most thought provoking) is about making economic decisions based on controlled experiments rather than (as in the US today) basing them on economic theory or economic ideology. Lee's view of economic theorists may be a bit too harsh (brilliant mathematicians far removed from direct knowledge of how the economy operates, a caricature Ed Prescott), but I think the Chinese inspired method "try it on a small scale to see if it works" has great potential for improving economic policy. Instead of arguing about the effect of a policy (say a change in minimum wage laws, or tax laws, etc.) we would set up different policies in different areas of the country and watch the results. Ch6 is about the excessive growth of the financial sector in the US in recent years and the need for a more balanced US economy (more Tech and Energy, less Finance). I was easily persuaded and I believe there is a growing consensus on this; recently the ECB's J. Stark said "finance has to regain its core role of servicing the real economy without being a source of risk itself", a perfect endorsement of this chapter.

Ch7 (the only one concerned with foreign policy) is entitled Soft Power (Joseph Nye's concept); she makes the case for a less interventionist US policy, not on money saving grounds (though I would favor it for that reason alone), but because Iraq, Afghanistan and other wars have damaged the US position in many ways. She contrasts this with China's noninterference policy, which allowed it to establish good cooperation with third world countries for mutual benefit (especially in Africa). The final chapter is about how cooperation between the US and China could lead to a better world, this would require some restraint and some far sighted thinking on both sides. I am afraid such an outcome is far from guaranteed.

In sum, it was fun to read and insightful. I did not agree with every recommendation, and some may be hard to put in practice or may appear too foreign or radical. As always the reader will have to make his own value judgements.
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on January 24, 2012
I purchased 7 copies of this book on recommendation of a financial analyst friend. Gave them to my best friends and we went to hear Professor Lee. Clear, succinct, based upon her professional experience in the financial markets. She loves the U.S. and wants our country to succeed.
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