In This Review
The Rise of China: How Economic Reform Is Creating a New Superpower

The Rise of China: How Economic Reform Is Creating a New Superpower

By William H. Overholt

W. W. Norton & Company, 1993, 399 pp.

The great strength of this incisive and provocative analysis of the Chinese reform process is its comparative framework. Overholt argues that there is a Pacific-Asian brand of economic takeoff and that Deng Xiaoping's China is following that well-trodden path. He argues that the Pacific-Asian model of development has succeeded in South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, and is likely to in China. His optimism, he says, is based on the fact that economic progress increasingly creates interest groups with a stake in extending reform and that knowledge of success elsewhere guides them on the road to further achievement.

The author does warn that success is not inevitable and reforms may get bogged down. Unfortunately, he does not devote sufficient effort to spelling out the more pessimistic scenarios. As a result, the book has been criticized for being one-sided and too rosy.

While there is some justification for this criticism, the volume remains a tour de force of comparative analysis made possible by the authors intimate knowledge of both China's development experience and the experience of other Asian-Pacific countries. He also has an unusual gift for generalization.