In This Review

The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World
The China Boom: Why China Will Not Rule the World
By Ho-Fung Hung
Columbia University Press, 2015, 264 pp

Hung masterfully integrates wide-ranging historical and economic details to make sense of China’s development and relations with the global economy. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Chinese leader Mao Zedong unwittingly laid the basis for Chinese capitalism by carrying out forced industrialization on the backs of the peasants. His successors pursued a version of the classic East Asian state-led capitalist model by fostering the development of export-dependent coastal urban economies and massive state enterprises while tolerating relative stagnation in the rural hinterlands. That strategy generated rapid economic growth but also corrupt and repressive local governance, an overreliance on exports, overinvestment in infrastructure, and an explosion of debt. Hung argues, controversially but convincingly, that there is no unique China model that developing countries can follow in order to avoid the flaws of capitalism or close the wealth gap with the developed world. Moreover, the boom of the book’s title is destined to peter out, potentially with disastrous consequences, unless the regime cedes more economic and political power to peasants and workers. Meanwhile, China has integrated its interests so tightly with those of the United States that its rise supports, rather than threatens, the U.S.-led global order.