Kynge, the former Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times, has the eyes and ears of a skilled journalist, as well as an insatiable curiosity about what is going on around him. He makes his points by unleashing one anecdote after another, finding evidence for his arguments in unlikely places. In making the case that the economic rise of China is affecting faraway events in surprising ways, for example, he notes that China's demand for metal recently drove the price of scrap metal to record levels -- leading to a global epidemic of manhole-cover theft; in Chicago, 150 disappeared in a single month, and Scotland's "great drain robbery" saw more than 100 vanish in a few nights. Kynge does acknowledge that China also has its own problems and that there could be trouble ahead, but his enthusiasms are with China's achievements, and that is the story he tells.
The authors of China: The Balance Sheet are leading China specialists currently associated with two Washington think tanks. They organize their study around the posing and answering of fundamental questions about China's development -- "what the world needs to know now about the emerging superpower." The critical questions fall into four categories: Will China's economy continue to grow, or will it collapse? Will China's rapid economic growth lead to pluralism and hence democratization? Does China represent a threat, or will it provide opportunities for other economies to benefit? And finally, with respect to security, will China turn out to be a constructive partner or a rival? The process of grappling with such fundamental questions brings out the complexities of China's development and the opportunities -- and limitations -- of what the United States can or should be doing to encourage China's advancement.