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China’s Unknown Political Future (September 2015): Other Factors Influencing China’s Future

By Xiaofei Li

Other Factors Influencing China’s Future

Unlike the above surveyed titles, which analyze China’s future from more broad perspectives, the following monographs construct arguments based on factors such as the military, labor unions, the new rich, business, and Chinese intellectuals.  James R. Lilley and David Shambaugh in China’s Military Faces the Future make a valuable contribution to the debate on China’s future by bringing together specialists from a wide range of backgrounds and views.  Paul Godwin’s essay knowledgeably acquaints readers with trends in military technology, doctrine, strategy, and operations, concluding that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is still one or two generations behind state of the art.  Michael Pillsbury explicitly demonstrates that the explosion of open-source information in China challenges the government by creating a relatively more unrestrained environment for discussion in Beijing.  Wendy Friedman’s chapter on research and development in the defense industry acknowledges that much of the cutting-edge scientific work in China has not transferred to defense production.  However, she argues that outside observers cannot assume these technologies will never be used for military purposes in the future.

In Industrial Relations between Command and Market: A Comparative Analysis of Eastern Europe and China, edited by Gerd Schienstock, Paul Thompson, and Franz Traxler, Trini Wing-Yue Leung’s chapter, “Trade Unions and Labor Relations under Market Socialism in China,” offers an exceptional synopsis of labor relations in China over the reform period to show the reality that the civil organizations or associations that are supposed to protect workers’ interests remain controlled by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.  Leung contends, “it is almost inevitable that a fundamentally-rebellious labor movement should begin to surface against a seemingly-formidable coalition between employers and various cadres.  There are signs that the bottlenecks produced by the rapidly-changing political-economic and industrial relations may eventually lead to tumultuous labor action and organization beyond the state-party framework.”

The New Rich in China: Future Rulers, Present Lives, a collection of fourteen essays edited by David G. Goodman, highlights the complicated relationship between capitalism and politics by discovering the lives of the new rich in urban China.  Goodman and his contributors attempt to investigate whether and, if so, when and how the newly affluent will democratize China.  The first set of articles makes the argument that few entrepreneurs would have become rich without local party backing.  Because most people tend to believe that the road leading to wealth is corrupt, “to get rich is not that glorious.”  A second set of essays explores whether this new wealth will unleash democratic power among entrepreneurs.  Stephanie Hemelryk Donald and Zheng Yi demonstrate that there is no causal link between class cultivation and political outcomes.  In fact, China’s newly well off are both the most advanced productive forces and corrupt polluters of socialist morality.  This contradiction will eventually weaken their ability to challenge the political domination of the CCP.

In China’s Futures, James Ogilvy, Peter Schwartz, and Joe Flower offer three informed accounts of China’s future in the coming years and what each scenario would mean to the business groups.  This book would benefit managers who are eager to know the future consequences of the decisions they are making now regarding China.  By using each scenario to plan business strategy, corporate managers can draw implications and make proposals about the operations of their companies.  The authors’ insights into China’s future may help global business managers, strategists, and government administrators prepare for the so-called Asian Century in which China plays a major role.

Besides Western scholarship, it is vital to pay attention to Chinese assessments of their own future.  In China Dream: 20 Visions of the Future, William A. Callahan presents the varied visions of China’s future from the Chinese “citizen intellectuals,” who include some of China’s renowned scholars, artists, activists, and thinkers.  “As China’s new leader Xi Jinping puts great emphasis on the ‘China dream,’ this timely book explains what it is.”  The book draws the reader deeply into the realm of Chinese discourse.

Comparable to Callahan’s China Dream, China’s Political Development: Chinese and American Perspectives, edited by Kenneth G. Lieberthal, Cheng Li, and Yu Keping, introduces Chinese interpretations of their current development and future plans by combining twelve analytical chapters written by prominent Chinese political scientists.  As the study of political science in China has thrived in recent years, China’s Political Development strives to tap into this vigor.