It’s become apparent from recent events that America’s political, business and scholarly elites have fundamentally misjudged China. Conflicts with China have multiplied. Consider: the undervalued renminbi and its effect on trade; the breakdown of global warming negotiations in Copenhagen; China’s weak support of efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; its similarly poor record in pushing North Korea to relinquish its tiny atomic arsenal; the sale of U.S. weapons to Taiwan; and Google’s threat to leave China rather than condone continued censorship.
Martin Jacques, a British news columnist, became fascinated by the manic modernization underway in China when he visited there in 1993. He saw construction cranes working round the clock, roads streaming with trucks and carts, and peasant women balancing wares on either end of a bamboo pole. The vibrant energy and evident willpower got Jacques musing: Would the economic boom follow the Western model? Or would China pursue modernity in its own way?
Jacques went for a holiday in Malaysia. One day, while he was out for a run on the beach, his eye chanced upon a dark and attractive woman. A 26-year-old lawyer, she was not an obvious match for a pink-skinned, pointy-headed, chronically unmarried Brit who was nearing 50. But the woman, Hari Veriah, who was born in Malaysia to Indian parents, was fearless and modern-minded, and her Asian perspective was like tinder to his spark.
Washington Post critics pick their favorite novels, biographies, mysteries, memoirs and more.
WHEN CHINA RULES THE WORLD, by Martin Jacques (Penguin, $29.95). A compelling and thought-provoking analysis of global trends that defies common Western assumptions.
– Seth Faison