The main thesis of this comprehensive, well-informed, well-written, realistic, and, apart from some journalistic hyperbole, largely persuasive book is that China is too large, too self-contained, and too self-absorbed to be much subject to foreign influence. The authors, both business consultants, see many obstacles to economic reform in China's future but believe the country will grow at an implausible 8 percent a year over the next 40 years. The result will be an extensive middle class and lots of personal freedom compared with China's past, but still an authoritarian government wary of corrupting foreign influences that pursues its own conception of China's interests -- which, however, does not include military conflict with the United States. But even a successful China will take over two decades to surpass a not-so-successful Japan in economic size and at least two decades beyond that to catch up with the much larger United States and European Union (EU). Even then the Chinese will be poor in terms of per capita income by world standards.
China will want a voice in setting international rules, and it will be large enough to influence the international environment, not always in ways comfortable for Americans. The authors urge "dynamic engagement" with China to cultivate strong mutual interests and build a sufficiently sound relationship for Americans to offer constructive criticism to an evolving Chinese society.
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