For those interested in the China going global phenomena there are more and more books and websites to choose from, viewing this subject from the point of view of business, politics and economics. Below I explain why these five books are essential reading.
This fantastically well researched book, painstakingly complied by two Spanish journalists based in China, it describes the stories behind Chinese migrants around the world and how they thrive and struggle in countries ranging from Russia to Turkmenistan to Colombia. I watched the writers speak at the London School of Economics about the book and they eloquently described their admiration for the hardships that Chinese migrants put up with to make a better life for themselves, but also the damaging environmental and social impact that Chinese investment often brings to a country.
This remains for me the definitive account of China in Africa, although the literature on the subject has multiplied dramatically, the author Deborah Brautigam remains the most highly respected authority on the China – Africa axis. The book looks at Chinese engagement in Africa with historical perspective, but concentrates on the economic and political consequences of the relationship that has developed over the last twenty years and is largely pro-Chinese, arguing that they have brought new funds, business opportunities and employment to a continent often ignored or patronised by the West. The book continues life in the popular China in Africa blog.
Fenby successfully traces the huge inadequacies of the Chinese state from suffocating authoritarianism to long term economic mismanagement and provides a compelling argument against a the concept of a global Pax-Sinica. For students of Chinese politics or international relations this is a book well worth reading, but it lacks the details that a serious China scholar might crave. Others like China the Partial Power by David Shambaugh, or Minxin Pei’s China’s Trapped Transition offer much more to those wanting to understand in greater depth the various competing schools of foreign policy thought emanating from Beijing or the complex issues around economic transition and how these will alter China’s ability or willingness to project power around the world. However for those with limited time this is well worth a read and neatly compiles all the arguments as to why China will not dominate the globe. Check out my full review here on the LSE Review of Books
This is the counter argument to Fenby’s book, the book’s eye-catching title is misleading as Jacques does not really go as far as to say that China will rule or dominate the world, but he does make a compelling case for the strength and efficiency of the Chinese state and its ability to adapt and spread Chinese influence across the globe. However I feel he glosses over some of the internal pressures the country will face from environmental degradation to regional separatism, but also the fact that China lacks the international allies that could make it a true superpower and it is not clear yet how it will make friends on the world stage given its often belligerent stance on many political issues particularly in Asia. However I recommend reading this with Fenby’s book to compare their contrasting outlooks on China’s future.
This cracking read by Ben Simpendorfer (an economist fluent in both Chinese and Arabic), outlines the connections between the Middle East and China as well as surrounding regions such as Central and Southern Asia. Drawing parallels between the ancient silk road and this new economic corridor which has been largely overlooked in the West he paints a convincing picture of the business ties traversing this vast region. China is now Saudi Arabia’s biggest customer for oil, Chinese built malls, factories and businesses are springing up across the Middle East, while entrepreneurs from the region flock to Chinese cities like Yiwu to buy cheap consumables for sale back home. Full of facts and anecdotes, entertaining and informative, this book nails the new version of this ancient trade route.
And one further book which looks highly promising: China’s Second Continent by Howard French.
I have not yet read this book, but it’s next on my list. You can check this review on the excellent Cowries and Rice site.