Readers of this mega-tome definitely get their money's worth. It reveals all the things you've always wanted to know about China, while parting the curtain that hides America. For good measure it provides great insight into the mind of an expatriate at a time when that community is growing by leaps and bounds.
Jeff J. Brown began life as an Oklahoma born agricultural engineer, traveling across Muslim lands in the Middle East and Africa, before landing in 1990's China with his French wife, becoming first an entrepreneur then a teacher. Like many ex-pats, the Brown-Langlois family bounced back and forth between France, the US and China, its latest stay in the Middle Kingdom starting in 2009. Not too many expats have life experience in three distinct cultures and political systems, and Jeff shares with his readers comparisons across this broad spectrum.
The book's subtitle "Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations", together with a preface by Brazilian roaming reporter Pepe Escobar, only hint at the breadth of this book. It makes little sense to know everything about the workings of China's "Heavenly Mandate" if you lack the international context in which it operates, in which false flags are ubiquitous, and the most powerful weapon is finance.
According to a Chinese expert, there is skepticism, if not frustration, that it is not easy for Western corporations to break into areas that are monopolized by well-connected Chinese firms.
Well, boo-hoo-hoo. Western capitalists have been so used to having the laws and rules written in their favor, while using gunboat diplomacy and colonialism to steal the world's natural resources and keep enslaved the Dreaded Other in the mire of poverty and oppression, that they are not used to a fair fight. So much for Adam Smith's invisible hand. It was a lie from the day it was published. It only works when the system is rigged for the 1%.
China's position as America's banker is usually juxtaposed to its domestic sins, aka its 'human rights record' and 'lack of democracy'. Brown's response to that is summarized in this pithy statement:Western pundits love to round on Baba that these tens of thousands of protests around the country each year are a sign of weakness in China's centralized, authoritarian system of state-regulated economy. But they are assiduously compiled in Beijing in order to better respond to the public's grievances in a targeted fashion"..For a Chinese protest to be put down with force, the crowd usually has to get violent first, unlike Occupy Wall Street (OWS), where protesting Chicago teachers and so many other scorned public protests are brutally repressed by America's militarized local and state police forces.
Many of the issues Jeff takes on will be familiar, but some of them - and not the least important - fill a crucial void. For example, the South China Sea is a logical Chinese area of influence, just as the Caribbean is a US preserve, so American claims to dominance there are widely condemned. But in reality, when the US "pivots to Asia", sending the navy to patrol these waters on behalf of its Pacific client states, it is to a large extent closing the barn door after the horse has got away.
Your average foreign policy wonk probably never of President Xi's One Belt, One Road project, otherwise known as the New Silk Road, a mega enterprise linking China with the rest of Eurasia, including Europe. A joint Russia/China endeavor, it's the old Lisbon/Vladivostok project successively dear to France's Charles de Gaulle and Russia's Mikhail Gorbachev. Washington can only carry on about Russian designs on the Baltics and Poland if it keeps the growing Russia/China franchise out of the news. But words cannot convey the sweep of China's efforts to outwest the west, and here as elsewhere in the book, stunning color illustrations ranging from cartoons to maps to works of art are a wonderful bonus.
Responding to America's accusation that China is undemocratic, Brown refers to the Chinese government as a respected elder he calls Baba Beijing, pointing out that its democratic centralism came directly from Confucius, via Vladimir Lenin.All proposals, policies and laws can and should be discussed and debated, in order to make the best decision for the needs of the people. Once the final decision is made citizens and leaders alike must wholeheartedly support the plan, (just as) US government officials are expected to tow the policy line, regardless of their personal inclinations while in business too, vocal, rebellious workers tend to get the axe".Loyalty is demanded until the policy or strategy changes. Isn't capitalism's teamwork just another word for democratic centralism, after all? Confucianism, and the even older concept of the Heavenly Mandate states that if the country's leaders do not maintain the democratic dictatorship,the people have the right to replace this failing government with a new one.
Just as, theoretically, according to our own Declaration of Independence"
Brown's book brings China's rise well within the reach of any Western reader, while providing academics with plenty to argue about.