Does the 21st Century Belong /tp: The Munk Debate on China Paperback – Nov 1 2011
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[The Munk Debates are] a significant forum for discussing global issues of our age...balanced and thoughtful... (Eric X. Li Huffington Post 2011-12-06)
About the Author
Dr. Henry Kissinger was the 56th Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 to 1977. He is one of the world's most influential commentators on geopolitics. Among his many accomplishments as a public servant Dr. Kissinger has been credited for normalizing relations between the United States and China at a crucial juncture in the history of both countries. After leaving government service, he founded Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm, of which he is chairman. Dr. Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (America's highest civilian award) in 1977.Niall Ferguson is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and William Ziegler Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is the author of numerous bestselling books, including The Ascent of Money. A prolific commentator on contemporary politics and economics, Ferguson is a contributing editor for the Financial Times and senior columnist with Newsweek.David Daokui Li is the Director of the Center for China in the World Economy at the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in Beijing. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University, and is one of three academic members of the monetary policy committee of the central bank of China. He is also a delegate to the Beijing People's Congress and a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee.Fareed Zakaria is host of CNN's flagship international affairs program, Fareed Zakaria GPS, which won the 2012 Peabody Award. He is also the editor-at-large of Time, contributing editor at The Atlantic, a Washington Post columnist, and a former editor of Newsweek International. He is the author of the international bestsellers, The Future of Freedom and The Post-American World: Release 2.0. He was described by Esquire as “the most influential foreign policy adviser of his generation” and was included on Foreign Policy’s list of “Top 100 global thinkers.”
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Very quickly I came to realize that this debate is not only about China, but also to a large extent on the fragile situation of the United States, which can determine whether China will dominate the 21st century. As was expected, Ferguson, who argued the pro, put the emphasis on the declining state of the U.S. economy and the growing economic power of the Chinese.
David Li (also arguing the pro), took the Chinese official view that says that we in the West are thinking in wrong terms. It's not a question of whether the 21st century will belong to China, because China is not interested in dominating the world. As a society shaped by Confucius, China is mainly interested in solving its domestic problems and is far less interested in intervening in other countries' businesses. In David Li's words, "it's just not in China's DNA". Thus, the entire notion of the debate is flawed in the first place.
Kissinger in my opinion was a lot less coherent than the rest of the debaters, mostly arguing that China will gain influence, however, it will not dominate the 21st century. The world will be more multi-polar.
Fareed Zakaria had the most convincing arguments, stating the fragile state of the Chinese political system, the growing inequality between the rich and the poor, the lack of freedom of speech, the real estate bubble, and the inefficient growth in China. Therefore, China's growth will be a lot less smooth than most people realize. However, in my opinion, Zakaria downplayed the severity of the U.S. economic situation and how it will affect the military and economic influence of the U.S.
To sum up, a lot of interesting insights can be gained from this debate, and it's highly recommended to people who are interested to know what these great thinkers have to say about where China is heading to.
Naturally, Niall Ferguson, Dr. Kissinger and Fareed Zakaria have written other books which plow the same ground. It would behoove the reader to read "On China" by Dr. Kissinger, the "Post American World" by Mr. Zakaria and "Empire" or "Colossus"by Mr. Ferguson to flesh out the points covered in this book - which is too short to fully explore all of the issues discussed.
As am aside, I am deeply saddened by the scandal affecting Mr. Zakaria. It does not undermine my deep respect for his intellect.