In This Review

Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform
Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform
By Cheng Li
Rowman and Littlefield, 1997, 353 pp

This important book, based on Cheng's wide travels and research in China in 1993-95 as a fellow of the U.S.-based Institute of Current World Affairs, dispels several myths. First, to say that China has made great progress in economic reform but little in political reform is too simplistic; the two cannot be separated. Urban privatization, for example, has brought about fundamental political changes. In addition, power has become decentralized at all levels, technocrats have risen to leadership, an independent legal system is being tested, and more grassroots local elections are taking place. Second, the continuation of economic reform is not inevitable. Reforms have elevated a class of "bureaucratic capitalists," created disparities in wealth, and led to pervasive official corruption. They have also uprooted millions. Chinese authorities cannot afford to deliberate for too long upon the growing disparity between rich and poor, a huge pool of 200 million surplus laborers, large-scale rural-urban migration, the lack of a social safety net, and growing urban unrest caused by the mass eviction of families to bleak suburbs. Yet these are tough issues without easy solutions. Third, China will not become a major economic power soon. Although coastal China has already become an economic powerhouse, much of the country will remain relatively poor for decades.