While America is still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis, a high unemployment rate, and a surge in government debt, China's economy is the second largest in the world, and many predict it will surpass the United States' by 2020. President Obama called China's rise "a Sputnik moment" - will America seize this moment or continue to treat China as its scapegoat?
Mainstream media and the U.S. government regularly target China as a threat. Rather than viewing China's power, influence, and contributions to the global economy in a negative light, Ann Lee asks, "What can America learn from its competition?"
Why did China recover so quickly after the global economic meltdown? What accounts for China's extraordinary growth, despite one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world? How does the Chinese political system avoid partisan rancor but achieve genuine public accountability? From education to governance to foreign aid, Lee details the policies and practices that have made China a global power and then isolates the ways the United States can use China's enduring principles to foster much-needed change at home.
This is no whitewash. Lee is fully aware of China's shortcomings, particularly in the area of human rights. She has relatives who suffered during the Cultural Revolution. But by overemphasizing our differences with China, the United States stands to miss a vital opportunity. Filled with sharp insights and thorough research, What the U.S. Can Learn from China is Lee's rallying cry for a new approach at a time when learning from one another is the key to surviving and thriving.
©2011 Ann Lee (P)2012 Ann Lee
The author points out the many areas where China is in ascendency and the US is stagnant or in decline. It is a very powerful and necessary message for the American public and American leadership to hear. Covering far ranging subjects from education to economics and finance to entrepreneurial vitality to domestic politics to foreign relations, she details the shortcomings of current American policies and compares it to the recent success of the Chinese while excusing the Chinese when they come up short.
She is trying to send a wake up call to Americans and for that, I believe she is successful.
But I do believe she wants a positive outcome for the US, I don't agree with her solutions that basically have Americans becoming more like Chinese and the American government acting more like the Chinese government.
For example, she proposes that Americans learn to follow Confucian philosophy. Like the author, I am a Chinese born American and I believe I understand both cultures - I cannot see Americans adopting Confucianism - it is not in their genetic makeup. For myself and other Chinese of my generation and earlier, Confucianism is not a philosophy we had to study - it is something we are immersed in every moment of our lives. From the moment we became aware of our surroundings, every interaction - with family, teachers, neighbors - all reinforced that way of life. Can an American youngster learn Confucian values by reading a book about it while friends are texting them about the latest escapades of Lindsay Lohan or the cast of Jersey Shore? My humble guess is that instead of Americans adopting Confucianism, the opposite will occur - that as their standard of living improves and exposure to Western ways continue, the Chinese, for better or worse, will start adopting American philosophy of life.
Sorry for belaboring my point - but I suffered through the a phase of corporate life in the 80's when it was "What can we learn from Japan" and copying Japanese management style and techniques was all the rage. Didn't work then and won't work now.
What will work?
We need to accept the author's message that there are problems. And there are some ideas that are transferable. But the ultimate solutions do not lie in copying the approach of a people and government of a completely different culture. Instead, we need to look at the strengths of American people and culture and the resources available to us, and then figure out the solutions that will work for us. It will not be easy. Certainly will not just happen by itself. Lets answer the wake up call and get busy.
Completing the review, I need to comment on the narrator - obviously great command of the language but the approach was too mechanical and just a tad too fast. Often had to replay a passage multiple times to get the point - but that may be necessary for any serious reading.
The author would benefit readers by trying to "bring them along" to see things from Chinese perspective rather than make the audience feel they were being lectured at...which is how it felt.
There are two sides to every story! If you work hard to suspend one's own biases you can get something from this story. Just remind yourself that the key skill of a good negotiator is not convincing the other party of your perspective, but rather see the issue from their perspective and help them see that you take them seriously.
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