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About this book

China has created its own distinctive pathway to becoming one of the world's largest economies – and the country's economic and political development over the next decade will have profound implications for the rest of the world. Knowledge of contemporary China is therefore essential for anyone who seeks to understand politics, business and international affairs in the twenty-first century.

Assuming no prior knowledge, this book presents an accessible and engaging introduction to all aspects of China. Following a scene-setting chapter on the making of modern-day China, the book moves on to examine the country's political and economic structures, its society and culture, and its changing place in the world. Looking to the future, the book also considers the demographic and political challenges which China now faces. Kerry Brown shows that there is a vibrant debate within the country about what China is, in what direction it might go and what sort of power it should become.
The text is illustrated throughout with figures and tables, boxes focusing on key issues and an extensive guide to further reading and useful websites. This accessible and lively book is the ideal starting point for students and general readers who want to know more about this important country.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Does China Matter?

Abstract
If for no other reason, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), founded in 1949, is special because of its size, both geographically (the world’s third-largest country) and in terms of its population (currently the most populous). This vastness, married to its long and complex history and internal diversity, means that it is hard to come up with a single, all-embracing framework within which to see the country. As this book will seek to show, there are many different aspects of modern China (from here on, ‘China’ will be used as a shorthand term for the People’s Republic of China, while Hong Kong will refer to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic, and Taiwan to the Republic of China on Taiwan island), and many ways of viewing the country. Often, the greatest challenge is to forget preconceptions and try to look hard at what the country actually is in itself. There are many ways, as I shall argue later, in which it resembles a continent more than a country, with all the diversity and complexity that involves, and this has become especially so in an era in which its 31 provinces and autonomous regions have economies that often equate in size to those of major European economies.
Kerry Brown

2. The Making of Modern China

Abstract
The two great overarching themes of Chinese history from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present day are the country’s efforts to modernize, and attempts over this period by the various states, academics, cultural figures and others to articulate a cohesive sense of Chinese national identity. These two phenomena, of modernity and identity, were connected by the fact that they both, to varying extents, involved China’s relationship with the outside world. The first, because modernization had largely risen from Western processes of scientific enquiry and industrialization, and the second because Chinese intellectuals and politicians often located themselves in opposition to Western models, and posited a sense of ‘Chineseness’ which was in some way alternative or different from these — an aspiration to be like the West in some ways, but different to it in others. This exists to this day in forms of Chinese exceptionalism and notions like ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’.
Kerry Brown

5. The Chinese Economy

Abstract
The Chinese economy is one of the wonders of the modern world. From constituting a tiny part of global GDP in 1978 at the start of the great transformation, China stood, in 2011, as the world’s second-largest economy (it had overtaken Japan in this position a year earlier), making up over 15 per cent of the world’s economy. It was the world’s largest holder of foreign reserves, its largest exporter, second-largest importer and the largest user of all energy sources, apart from oil, where it stood a very close second to the USA. In terms of productivity, Chinese leaders were keen to say that, since the early 1980s, China’s economy had grown by 10 per cent per year. Even after the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, China managed to add 40 per cent to its economy at a time when the rest of the developed world was stagnant. In the decade after its entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, China quadrupled the size of its economy. In terms of the rate and gross size of growth, China was either at the top of data tables, or very close to it. Predictions of when it would overtake the USA to be the world’s largest economy varied between 2015 and 2035 — it was a question, in any case, not of if, but when — and the end date for this to happen was frequently revised downwards (BBC News, 14 February 2011).
Kerry Brown

7. Chinese Culture

Abstract
In 2004, one of the country’s main liberal magazines, Southern Weekend, issued a list of the 50 most influential people in China. It included scientists, writers, political thinkers, artists and business people. The list led to a storm of debate online, with many disagreeing with who were included in the list, the reasons they were included or proposing other people instead. Within a few days of the list appearing, it was effectively censored, and became unobtainable within China.
Kerry Brown
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