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China’s Journey into the Unknown

First published: Project Syndicate 22/10/2021

An essay in which I review 3 new books on China:

Yuen Yuen Ang, China’s Gilded Age: The Paradox of Economic Boom and Vast Corruption, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
Petros C. Mavroidis and André Sapir, 
China and the WTO: Why Multilateralism Still Matters, Princeton University Press, 2021.
Angela Huyue Zhang, 
Chinese Antitrust Exceptionalism: How the Rise of China Challenges Global Regulation, Oxford University Press, 2021

China watchers have grown ever more anxious as President Xi Jinping has concentrated power in his own hands, and as the Communist Party of China’s leadership has become more coercive, both at home and abroad. The so-called trade war with the United States, deterioration in relations with many foreign governments, and the COVID-19 pandemic have had far-reaching consequences for China. And now comes Xi’s regulatory and legal clampdown on private firms and their owners, as he champions a new campaign to promote “common prosperity.”

The speed and scope of these developments exemplify the hazard of book-writing on contemporary affairs. Even so, the three books examined here provide (each in its own way) a valuable perspective on the more lasting aspects of Xi’s China, identifying features that can guide thinking about the future of a country that is both challenging the world and facing major challenges of its own. Read on….