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China Wave, The: Rise Of A Civilizational State [Paperback]

Weiwei Zhang
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Book Description

21 Mar 2012
This is a best-seller in China and a geopolitical book for our times. As a leading thinker from China, Zhang Weiwei provides an original, comprehensive and engrossing study on the rise of China and its effective yet controversial model of development, and the book has become a centerpiece of an unfolding debate within China on the nature and future of the world's most populous nation and its possible global impact. China's rise, according to Zhang, is not the rise of an ordinary country, but the rise of a different type of country, a country sui generis, a civilizational state, a new model of development and a new political discourse which indeed questions many of the Western assumptions about democracy, good governance and human rights. The book is as analytical as it is provocative, and should be required reading for everyone concerned with the rise of China and its global implications.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wcpc (21 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193813401X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1938134012
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 217,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"One of the most popular books on sale in China at the moment is on the rise of a civilizational state, by Zhang Weiwei. Mr Zhang argues that China is unique as the world's only amalgam of an ancient civilization and a huge modern state , and is increasingly returning to its own roots for inspiration, and producing its own norms and standards. "-- The Economist: Nothing New under Heaven

"As China feels its own economic and political strength in the world, it is natural that its own intellectuals should want to explain China's progress theoretically, first to themselves, then to the world. Prof. Zhang's book has been well regarded within China, making a major contribution to the internal debate on China's future. By translating his book into English, Prof. Zhang adds to the world's understanding of China's development and what this means for the world. China's astonishing re-emergence on the global stage has thrown into confusion traditional western-dominated theories of modernization, in Prof. Zhang's own words, putting an end to the End of Civilization ."-- George Yeo, Former Foreign Minister of Singapore

"The China Wave: Rise of a Civilizational State is the geopolitical book for our times. It frames the rise of China, which is the big story of the 21st Century, with a bold and novel theory that challenges conventional wisdom of national structure, democracy, and what constitutes good governance. At a time when American exceptionalism is on the wane, are we ready for Chinese exceptionalism on the rise? Zhang Weiwei, whose energetic vision resonates well among Chinese future leaders, makes a compelling case. His arguments and insights, as analytical and passionate as they are confrontational and controversial, should be required reading for everyone concerned about China. Ignore this book and you will not understand how China's leaders think."-- Robert Lawrence Kuhn, Author, How China's Leaders Think

"The rise of China is the biggest story of our time and the best story-tellers of our time come from the West. This has led to a huge global paradox where the best story-tellers have failed to understand the biggest story of our time. This is why the world urgently needs good Chinese story-tellers to provide the Chinese perspective. Prof. Zhang has done the world a huge favor by coming out with this timely and interesting new perspective on the rise of China."-- Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Author, The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Power to the East, One of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2010 and 2011 by Foreign Policy Magazine

"Few scholars from the mainland are as urbane, connected and savvy as Zhang Weiwei ... The book's central idea is that China is different from other nation states. There is some merit to this. Unlike the politically diffuse civilisations of Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, China has managed to establish political unity over most of its territory." --South China Morning Post

"Mr Xi [Jinping] is also said to have read The China Wave by Zhang Weiwei, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai and the Geneva School of Public Diplomacy and International Relations. That book offers a vigorous summary of the 'China model' theory, which holds that China can successfully meld authoritarian government with a capitalist-style economy. (Section titles include 'The China Model May Win Out' and 'Political Reform, the Chinese Way'). It depicts China's rise as the rise of a civilization - something bigger than a nation." --Didi Kirsten Tatlow, The New York Times:The Risks of Taking China's Helm

The rise of China is the biggest story of our time and the best story-tellers of our time come from the West. This has led to a huge global paradox where the best story-tellers have failed to understand the biggest story of our time. This is why the world urgently needs good Chinese story-tellers to provide the Chinese perspective. Prof. Zhang has done the world a huge favor by coming out with this timely and interesting new perspective on the rise of China. --Kishore Mahbubani, One of the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2010 and 2011 by Foreign Policy Magazine

About the Author

Zhang Weiwei is a professor of international relations at Fudan University and a senior research fellow at the Chunqiu Institute, China. He is concurrently a senior fellow at the Centre for Asian Studies, Geneva, and a visiting professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations. He has written extensively in English and Chinese on China's economic and political reform, China's development model and comparative politics. He worked as a senior English interpreter for Deng Xiaoping and other Chinese leaders in the mid-1980s.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new perspective 19 Oct 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Professor Zhang Wei-Wei offers a robust and well argued critique of China development, and it's impact for the world stage, as well as providing decent reasoning and defense of the China model.
Zhang Wei-Wei is perhaps the first academic I have read who finally offers a definition of the description of China as a civilizational state, by providing possible counterparts, were they to exist now.
Basically, if the Roman Empire had survived, Europe would be a civilizational state. If the Islamic Caliphate had remained in power throughout the Middle East, that would also be a civilizational state. Therefore, China is the only contiguous civilization to reach the modern world under the modern definition of a state.
Zhang Wei-Wei provides a decent defense of the PRC system that few others have provided, instead of focusing purely on economic growth as the CCP's mandate for power, he provides decent examples of how CCP rule is beneficial, such as the focus on the longterm outlook, rather than the short termism of most Western Politicians, and the meritocratic structure of the top brass.
Whatever one may say about speculated horse trading on the selection of the Politburo Standing Comittee, we at least have a situation where the 2 top men are PhD educated, and have held a variety of administrative and executive positions throughout China.
What did Barack Obama have? 4 years in the US Senate, 2 of which was effectively running an election campaign.
A real treat in this book is the debate with Dr Fukuyama, although this reader at least cannot discern a winner in that debate.
Many of my friends complain to me of criticism of China, but the best weapon against criticism is a good argument itself, and Zhang Wei-Wei's book is one of the best arguments one can find.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive and interesting 2 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book providing a Chinese view of their country's progress to date since the Deng Xiaoping reforms. The writer suggests these reforms have led to a middle class which will be committed to stability above all else. Further reform will be empirical and gradual. The book glosses over the political concerns of the Western audience but then judging by the turnout for electing UK police commissioners (less than 30%) and recent lack of engagement by voters he may well be correct that most value stability over politics. The book doesn't address the corruption and scandals (eg Bo Xilai: imagine a British politician's wife being charged with murder and that cabinet minister disappearing!). There is an amusing strain of triumphalism however the central message that the CPC has managed a successful modernisation and that their methods worked is clearly true. Anyone visiting China as I have will recognise much more remains to be done and so does the authour. Whether that transition and wealth means there will not be another revolution as most individuals are excluded from the kleptocracy remains to be seen. Well worth reading.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tidal 14 April 2012
By Hande Z - Published on
This small, 176-page book by Zhang, a professor at Fudan University and one-time interpreter for Deng Xiaoping, addresses the most gripping debate in and about China today: Should the most populous nation and the second largest economy in the world follow the Western, particularly American, model of economy and governance, or follow its own model of development while assimilating the best from the world? Zhang favours the latter and in this book, he provides his analysis and reasoning as to why he thinks so.

Modest and careful, Zhang sees two sides to every major issue, and recognising that statistics can be deceptive, he acknowledges that there may not be a great deal to rejoice in being the second largest economy. He remembers the lessons of history - that China lost the Opium Wars when it was then the world's largest economy. He understands that the "rise of China" irks as many as it impresses. He is cautious in rejoicing in China's new status not because he belongs to the camp that views it as a false dawn, but because he prefers (like Deng Xiaoping) that China keeps a low profile to avoid "unnecessarily heavy international burdens".

He issues a gentle but firm reminder to those who would scoff at the "rise of China" that China was not just an ordinary country rising through the application of a Western model economy. The nature of China's rise, in his view, "is the rise of a civilizational state which has amalgamated the world's longest continuous civilization with the modern state." This was made possible with the establishment of the three structures - the upper structure (which includes government ministries and the central bank) established during the republican years 1911-1949; the lower structure, established by Mao Tze Tung through land reforms and the mobilization of the peasants; and the middle structure established through Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms and China's entry into the modern market.

Carefully navigating through the landmark developments in the country's economic history, and constantly reaffirming the nature of Chinese society, Zhang compares the parallel history not just of America and Europe, but also China's tinier neighbours in Asia. One of the strengths of China (and for that matter, it ought to be the strength of every nation) is the people. Noting that education is invaluable and had played a crucial role in China's rise, one can at once understand why America is heading the opposite direction. Thus, just as Deng Xiaoping's ride in Japan's bullet train in 1978 inspired Deng to modernize China, Barak Obama remarked after riding in China's longer, faster bullet train in 2010 that: "There is no reason why China should have the fastest trains".

Zhang holds the view that had China adopted the Western model it would have disintegrated like the USSR and Yugoslavia. He presents a different assessment of China than that often characterized in foreign press and publications, especially Western ones. Thus he states that "yet the reality is that most Chinese are fair-minded: if you have good performance in the past, and if you are still working earnestly for the people, they tend to understand you and give you room for improvement." This may not be the view typically accepted by the West, but the answer to the question whether Zhang is repeating Chinese propaganda or making an astute judgment lies in the earnest and humble tone of this fascinating book.

More importantly, Zhang identifies two groups of Asian countries that had tried the Western model and he gives his critical appraisal of the outcome. The first are countries like Philippines and Thailand which embraced the Western model too early - while they were still poor. The second group, like South Korea and Taiwan, adopted the Western model after they had reached a higher level of modernization. In all these cases, he noted three problems. First, society becomes more divided; secondly, corruption generally increased rather than decreased; and thirdly, the economy is negatively affected. [Zhang mistakenly named Lim Kit Siang as a "Thai opposition leader". Lim is a Malaysian opposition leader. The author more likely had either Chavalit or Chuan Leekpai in mind.]

This book is important not only for China but Asian countries on the advantages and cost of embracing the Western model. There is a clear and unmistakable hint in Zhang's book "The China Wave" that one cannot adopt an economic model without letting in the cultural flood - that is why China has to ask itself, will Western culture bring down what it has taken China so long to build?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Chinese explains China to the Chinese 8 April 2014
By aldo matteucci - Published on
The interest of this book lies in the fact that it was written originally for a Chinese audience - more or less it is Chinese talking to each other. What arguments are used, what self-images are evoked? I'd recommend it on such grounds. Of course, all self-analysis is necessarily self-affirmation, and the author resolutely avoids stepping outside the boundaries of the politically comfortable; don't expect excruciating self-flagellation. The book is easy to read, if somewhat repetitive. It is worth spending same time with, and keeping handy as a collection of (+/- ideological) statements of Chinese political wisdom.

The Chinese play "go," and the West plays chess. There is no point in arguing which game is more satisfactory, or useful. To each his preferred game - though the choice is telling of the underlying mentality. I'll gladly accept China's claim to its own strategic and culturally based development path as presented here by the author. Three cheers for the three "no" (pg. 89).

My comments take the author's arguments as starting points. I'll check them for consistency; I'll verify historical facts and assess the current dynasty on its own terms, as given by the author. The balance sheet is checkered, in my double-entry book (a Western invention).

The strong points first.

China's long-standing ability to deal with the inner diversity of its civilization is remarkable. There seems indeed to be a willingness to strive for inclusiveness. The current approach of experimenting, of allowing diversity to bloom, in order pragmatically to find the best way forward, is laudable. It is a Bayesian approach, rather than top-down planning, and is per definition inclusive of experience and people. In addition, to being reality-based; spreading the pilot experience across the nation is easiest when it is done by emulation, rather than top-down fiat.

The author seems to be in the right when he points out that China's development has not entailed aggression and overseas adventures (pg. 12 and numerous other places). The building of a nation-state need not go hand in hand with external aggressiveness (as in the West). This point might have been made even more strongly, for the West imputes China outward aggressiveness, which to my view is more a projection of its darker self. China "standing up" does not necessarily mean that it is spoiling for a fight.

I'd agree that China has been able to transform itself silently, even unobtrusively. The Yellow Emperor has been banished, and replaced by a collective leadership striving to become a meritocracy (some quip that it was a management-buyout). This was done without beheading sovereigns, or creating revolutionary upheavals. In a way, China has just traversed a period as transformative as the French Revolution, and no one seems to have noticed.

The involvement of the state (what the author calls "macro-regulation") so far has proven helpful, though some of the author's claims might be taken with a grain of salt. So far, the going was easy. Economic development was the way forward, and some of the longer-term consequences were yet to manifest themselves. Soon trade-offs will need to be made: does China want to continue being the world's "producer of last resort" and accept the ensuing pollution? It is remarkable that neither "environment" nor "pollution" appears in the index to this work.

The search for meritocracy is meritorious. Indeed, the Keju system is a Chinese invention (pg. 132). Indeed, a professionalized ruling class may be better for the country in the long run. The system have not proven to be unmitigated bliss: mandarins closed China's doors to the outside under the Ming (to spite the eunuchs). In the XIXth century, the Keju system's unwillingness to reform itself stifled "self-strengthening." Corruption was significant at all times among the Mandarins. The system is easily perverted: self-referential formalism replaces professionalism. Such flaws have not been banished: one wonders what Marxism and the study of Contradictions can still teach the budding meritocracy - unless one takes mastery of this curriculum as proxy for an IQ test.

There are major flaws in the author's discourse, which he glosses over.

The Dynasty came to power in 1949. Indeed, it lifted 400 million people out of poverty. Hurrah! But it also sent 80 million or so to utter misery and terrifying death. A whole generation of children was not born, simply because fertility plummeted due to hunger and stress. It is very difficult for me to accept glossing over this fact (as the author does), blandly asserting that the Dynasty actually emerged in 1978, and reiterating: "this time the Dynasty means to be humanistic and Confucian" and what else. I'm not arguing that the Dynasty has lost its mandate - this is not for me to decide. The least one can do, however (particularly when facing the citizenry who has lived through these periods) is to acknowledge the events, and not to go on about the good deeds of the Dynasty as if nothing had happened. That the author considers politically impossible this revisiting of the past, tells much about the real state of things in China today.

In this context, the author is uncritical, I would even say hagiographic, of Deng Xiaoping. [So is Deng's major Western biographer (Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China) who devotes 12 of his 700-page-biography to Deng's role in the Dynasty during the first 20 years.] Deng had much blood on his hands until 1969. It is the outstanding merit of Deng to have learned from the Dynasty's mistakes. He concluded that one should seek ideological truth, but closure from ideological struggles in economic development.

The other "missing reality" in this book is coercion. The historical picture the author presents of China's civilization does not even mention the pervasive and ever present co-responsibility system. It was the subtlest, pervasive, terrifying and thus most effective of "harmonizers." It was there at the beginning, and it is still in place, in strange ways. More generally, the repressive character of China's traditional society is utterly ignored. Yet much of China's history is one of mindless state repression - as reflected in popular literature celebrating the redressing of state-wrought wrongs (in the West, by comparison, the stories are about heroic feats against circumstances).

The author praises the way use and ownership of land has been separated, avoiding concentration of ownership into the hands of few. This is correct, as long as land use does not change (or intensify). Changes are the order of the day, however, and the profits arising when use changes are being denied to the historical user. When hutongs are razed to make room for high-risers, displaced dwellers only get nominal compensation for use-loss, or are simply resettled: profit from the new use goes to the well-connected. This issue is not going away, and could tear the country apart.

A final remark: the historical sketch of China as civilizational state - the stately progress of Chinese civilization united around an unwavering sense of self over 3000 or more years - seems to me (who has read a tiny bit on the subject) quite incomplete (and often wrong, at least according to current Western scholarship). Just one example: it seems to have escaped the author's attention that probably over half of China's dynasties were either semi-barbarian (beginning with Qin), or fully "barbarian," like the Liao, Yuan, and Qing (for 200 years Han Chinese men grimly wore the queue as overt sign of submission to the "foreign" Manchus). One is hard put to believe that conquest bestowed on these foreign dynasties the capacity to incarnate Chinese civilization in its march toward Confucian perfection.

I'm afraid, this rosy-tinted view of China's past won't do. Here, I'll challenge the author, in a friendly way. While many histories of China have been written, they are all by foreign scholars. Given the scholarly capacities of China today, I'm eagerly awaiting the publication there (to be translated into English at affordable rates), of a History of China that surpasses in scholarly rigor, depth, and detail, what is available at the moment. For people like me, who would like better to understand this civilization, this would be a great bonus. And it would be proof of China having made peace with itself.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inside view of China's last thirty years and where it stands today 7 Dec 2012
By Bob Bailey - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a meritocratic and cultural explanation of China's success and failures and overall growth since opening up 30 yeares ago.. I am only halfway through the book but I find in it a frank and open discussion of what China is doing right , "crossing the river on hidden stones" and stressing the cultural belief in harmony among other Chinese cultural philosophies. I recommend it to any who wish to explore the new China.
5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars ultra-nationalistic praise-singing of one-party authoritarian rule 25 Nov 2012
By Harvy Lind - Published on
If you are curious about how the in-house Party intelligentsia eulogizes single-party Leninist authoritarian rule as a Panglossian "best of all possible worlds," this book may be of interest. Otherwise, this little book of under 200 pages from an obscure publishing house in New Jersey will likely lead to your tossing it aside in disgust by the twentieth page or so, as it amounts to a mild-mannered diatribe against basic human freedoms and rights and against democratic election of a nation's leaders. Zhang Weiwei, a Party insider at one of China's universities, cherry-picks opinion polls that reflect positively on the PRC government while ignoring the bulk of indicators that indicate popular discontent with widespread political corruption, environmental catastrophes, unaccountable and secretive rule by a self-selecting Party elite, a yawning gap between rich and poor, food and drug safety crises, the lack of an independent judiciary, widespread censorship, and many other severe problems. This book is brimming with misleading anecdotes that reflect Zhang's fervent support of one-party authoritarian rule, as he denounces democratic politics in places such as Taiwan, India, Hungary, and the US.
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