China's Techno-warriors: National Security and Strategic Competition From the Nuclear to the Information Age; Digital Dragon: High Technology Enterprises in China

In This Review

China's Techno-warriors: National Security and Strategic Competition From the Nuclear to the Information Age

by Evan A. Feigenbaum
Stanford University Press, 2003
360 pp. $55.00
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Digital Dragon: High Technology Enterprises in China

by Adam Segal
Cornell University Press, A Council on Foreign Relations Book, 2003
240 pp. $35.00
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These two tightly written books demand much of the reader, but they are packed with solid information and exceptional insights. Feigenbaum's is a masterful review of how military considerations have dominated the development of science and technology in China. He traces in great detail how the Chinese leadership's decisions about weapons needs have dictated the development of science from the Mao era to the present. The close linkage between technological development and security has meant that substantial resources have gone into a few key fields of science where China could claim world-class status, but the rest of its science lags far behind.

In looking to the future, Feigenbaum suggests that China's success in high technology will depend on the growth of small-scale private entrepreneurial operations. This is exactly the subject of Segal's study, and he shows that China has had mixed success in developing nongovernmental high-tech enterprises. He examines the record of firms in four cities and concludes that success or failure depends very much on the practices of the local governments. The importance of this factor explains one of his most surprising findings: that Beijing firms were more successful than those in Shanghai, where local authorities concentrated their support for high-tech developments on only the large state-owned enterprises and multinationals. In short, there is no getting around the role of government.