China since Tiananmen: The Politics of Transition (Cambridge Modern China Series) Paperback – 30 Jul 2001
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'… it offers one of the clearest accounts written so far of the various academic trends in contemporary China.' Asian Affairs
'China since Tiananmen is a most impressive narrative of china's political transition in the past decade … By way of examining the past, China since Tiananmen enhances our understanding of the future.' New Zealand International Review
'… the book is clearly one of the finest published in recent years on Chinese politics. Fewsmith does a marvelous job in delineating the different strands of contemporary Chinese intellectual thoughts and in guiding us through the literati landscape of China.' Democratization
'The book is a masterpiece of excavation of intellectual trends that had their origins in the 1980s but were overlooked because of western enthusiasm to see a world that would look like ours. It is descriptive rather than analytical, but it will be an essential resource for anyone who wishes to understand how these changes came about, who the key thinkers were, and how a nascent public opinion played into elite politics.' Development & Change
'… exceptional book … Fewsmith does an excellent job of tracing the ups and downs of the factions within the party leadership and their shifting influence during this tumultuous period.' Journal of East Asian Studies
China Since Tiananmen offers a comprehensive assessment of the evolution of China since the Tiananmen Incident (1989). Fewsmith looks at the intellectual trends, and examines the conduct of elite politics to see the ways in which the political system has, and has not, evolved over the past decade.
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Deng called on the SEZs to catch up to the 'four small dragons (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong) in 20 years.' Deng's continued criticisms, along with adding top PLA attendance and support and endorsing Zhu Rongji (former Shanghai General Secretary) for his current post as vice-premier (and potential replacement for Premier Jiang Zemin finally stirred action. The month of May saw the Central Committee endorsing 44 new SEZs, and betting behind Deng's 2000 goal for the original SEZs. In October, 1992, the Party Congress also endorsed Deng's concept of 'socialist market economic system,' replacing their prior focus on a 'socialist planned economy.' Deng also managed to have several reform opponents replaced on the Standing Committee. Finally, growth targets were also raised.
In 1994, China's inflation rate jumped to 21.7%, 44% of its State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) were losing money, and 80% of SOE income went to debt service.
Fewsmith also points out that despite Chinese youth having a very positive opinion of the U.S. during TS, this turned negative after the Gulf War, U.S. opposition to China's 2000 Olympic bid (lost by two votes), U.S. involvement supporting Taiwan and Tibet, U.S. impediments to China joining the WTO, and our constant carping about human rights, which the Chinese began seeing as a smoke-screen hiding other U.S. interests.
This was a challenging read for someone like myself, who came to it with only minimal knowledge of Chinese politics. By the end, however, I felt that Fewsmith had done an excellent job with explaining and analyzing the backgrounds and motivations of the major political power players. His descriptions of the infighting and political maneuverings kept the book interesting, and his writing was focused and well organized.
I did find occasions where I was being thrown off by terms like "leftist", "rightist", "liberal", and "conservative", which take on decidedly different meanings in the Chinese political spectrum than their more familiar applications to American politics. Some of the political science jargon can be a bit overwhelming as well.
The book is somewhat dated. By ending around the time of the incident in early involving the forced landing of a US surveillance plane following a collision with a Chinese fighter jet, the author has inadvertently left off the narrative just before the major shift on global politics that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. Thus some of Fewsmith's projections of future trends in global politics seem unrealistic in light of the events of the last eight years. But Fewsmith doesn't spend much of his narrative projecting the future. He has an excellent grasp on the delicacy and the complexity of China's relationship with other nations, particularly the US.
If you're interested in Chinese politics, or in Clinton administration foreign policy, this is definitely worth reading. It chronicles all of the major events and personalities, and it is very thoroughly sourced and annotated.
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