Ms. Napo is part of a generation of educated Italians who grew up admiring the PCI, whose Marxist ideology held the key to a bright future for all. The collapse of the soviet union was a shock and left millions of believers in italy puzzled and looking for explanations. Napo has a simple one: communism is very successful, but in its Chinese version, which is completely different from the mistaken Soviet interpretation, and it is rapidly modernizing China, which will soon overtake the evil West. At this point most people will say: you've got to be kidding! China's ideology has undergone tremendous change, it can hardly be described today as Mao-nomics or even Deng-nomics; leaders as well as ordinary Chinese hardly ever refer to marxist concepts nowadays. Napo understands that, but it does not stop her; writing in a breezy, fast moving style (well translated from the Italian by S. Twilley) she makes her case boldly and then moves forward as in a James Bond movie, where the quick changes in the plot entertain the reader and hide the preposterousness of the underlying premises. A former newspaperwoman with no scholarly pretensions, she has read widely about China and world affairs generally, and she ransacks her reading list for interesting anecdotes to fit to her ideological frame: up with China, down with the West.
A quick summary. Iceland, guided by a neoliberal ideology sank into disaster, while China's economy following the opposite principles (really?) soared to new heights. Reagan and Thatcher badly damaged their economies, while Deng sent China on an upward path by forcing millions of people to work hard for very low wages (hey, to make an omlet you have to break some eggs). Marx would have been in favor of globalization, seeing it as a way to raise the conditions of the working class (the Chinese working class, at any rate). Napo highlights many shortcomings in China, such as hideous factory conditions, pollution, lack of rights. While not condoning these, she sees them as inevitable in a rapidly developing country and having some parallels with the early stages of the West's industrial revolution. For Napo, Deng's repression of TienAnMen was well justified: if Chinese had been granted full democratic freedoms in 1989 hundreds of millions of them would have flooded to the West bringing chaos in their wake (in this imaginative Western centric perspective, she takes for granted that they would have been admitted by western countries). In any case mistakes by Chinese leaders made in the name of the people are excusable, when western leaders are corrupt and care only about themselves. Western leaders bail out banks with taxpayer money, while China where necessary recapitalizes state banks that have non-performing loans so they can keep lending (see the difference?).
We also learn: p.67 Chinese ships under admiral Cheng He discovered America in 1421 (!), p.108 JP Morgan used TARP funds to acquire Bear Stearns in the Spring of 2008 (wasn't TARP approved in the Fall of 2008?). p.127 The Fed followed an aggressive disinflation policy which resulted in the financial crisis (weren't Fed rates held very low from 2000 to 2005?), p.204 oil was the fuel that made the Industrial Revolution possible (I thought it was coal?), p. 284 in China's DNA the business gene has replaced the colonization gene (whatever that means). But the emphasis is on the big picture, not the specifics.
I found the book entertaining, but ultimately superficial. What is the point? Nowhere does she suggest specific policies that would improve the situation, she just revels in the good guys' successes (China) and in the bad guys' comeuppance (the neoliberal west), even winking at AlQaida for its daring. There are far better books on the financial crisis (Rajan, Nocera, etc.), on chinese policies and China's opening (Kissinger's is the latest), on China's role in Africa (such as Brautigam), on what the US can learn from its competition with China (Ann Lee) and the many other subjects briefly touched in this book.