Book: In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony

This is an odd book. The author is very, very worried about the rise of China and he seems to have done a great deal of research to back up his case. And as an antidote to some of the more naive proclamations about the inevitable Westernization of China (we’re looking at you Thomas Friedman) it probably serves some good.

However, I remain unconvinced the situation is as dire as the author would have us believe. Here are his claims as I understand them:

  • The key to understanding China’s leaders and the mindset of the Chinese people is Confucianism.
  • Confucianism is fundamentally at odds with Western values.
  • The Western media and political classes do not understand this, but the same classes in China and other Eastern countries do.
  • There is far more collaboration between “Confucian” countries than is apparent from their public behavior.
  • The economic system employed by China, which is adapted from similar systems in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and other Eastern countries, is simply better at producing economic results than Western-style capitalism.

The author tries to draw stark differences between East and West, and in the process he often manages to caricature both. In his portrayal, Westerners are not just more individualistic than Easterners, but are rather defined by this individualism. The Western and Eastern “truth ethics” differ so greatly that, for example, the concerted efforts by the conquered Japanese after World War II to present a more cooperative face than was really the case is “inconceivable” to the Western mind.

By the end of the book, the case he has presented, if taken at face value, is so alarming that his proposed solution (raise tariffs) seems woefully adequate. Rather, if he is right, the West is doomed.

But I’m not ready to build my bunker.