These two symposium volumes seek to explain China from different perspectives -- but as with the blind men and the elephant, they provide somewhat different pictures. China Joins the World focuses on China's international relations, asking what Western policies might induce China to become a constructive participant in international institutions and regimes. In general, the authors are optimistic about socializing China in this direction and see most Chinese officials as anxious to become effective international players. In contrast, the Goldman-MacFarquhar volume covers the more problematic questions of elite politics and the broad discontent unleashed by economic reforms. By confronting the problems fragmenting Chinese society, the authors present a less optimistic picture than Economy and Oksenberg, but their account also makes more understandable the xenophobic explosion after the NATO bombing of China's Belgrade embassy last spring.
In a strange way, the two books' differences mirror a peculiarity in U.S.-China relations. Both governments seem anxious to separate domestic developments from interstate relations. The authors in the Economy-Oksenberg volume hold out the hope that this is possible, but Goldman and MacFarquhar's authors provide considerable evidence that it is not.