Saturday, November 11, 2006

Just finished reading this book. The 223 pages took me just three days (which is fast for me, though I know there will be some who scoff). Truly gripping stuff. If I knew that economics could be this interesting, I might have actually bothered to read the business pages all these years.

On one level, the book provides an account of China's mammoth influence on the global economy and the threat it poses to cherished European and American notion's of free-market capitalism (predicting the end of globalisation while it's at it). But of more interest to me were the beautifully written little snapshots of situations, cities and people that really capture what it is like to live in China today.

Probably my favourite passage in the book runs as follows...

[In modern China] trust is a commodity constantly under siege. Poverty and the competition for scarce resources impinge upon it. The ideological vacuum that replaced Communism undermines it. The daily diet of propaganda disorientates it. The venality of officials devalues it. The ascendancy of a value system dominated by money hollows it out. What is left is a society in which describing someone as ‘honest’ can just as easily be a gentle criticism as a compliment.” [China Shakes The World, Ch.7, pp153-154]

...I like it because it's so bloody true.

China Shakes The World was written by one James Kygne, former Beijing Bureau Chief for the Financial Times newspaper. The book is his first, apparently. It's a stunning work. Buy it. Now.