Book Review: China's Global Reach
- Markets, Multinationals, and Globalization
by Ronald Hilton
Author: George Zhibin Gu
Publisher and Webpage: www.Trafford.com/05-1822
253 pages; September 2005
This book has on the cover a colored picture of skyscrapers,
symbols of the new China the book describes. Upward
mobility used to be primarily an American social phenomenon,
but it has become global, as many members of World Association
of International Studies exemplify. Jordi Molins described
how his humble family prospered after it moved from
Murcia to Catalonia. Likewise George Zhibin Gu opens
his book with "Growing Up in China",, an account
of the hardships suffered during the disastrous Great
Leap Forward , when there was nationwide starvation
in China. During the Cultural Revolution, education
was neglected, and schools were in a lamentable state.
Then China changed, and Gu was able to go to Nanjing
University and subsequently to the US, where he studied
at the University of Michigan, earning two MS degrees
and a Ph.D. The US was in a depression when he arrived,
and many people were desperate, so he saw the darker
side of capitalism.
His book is divided into four parts:
1. China as a New Global Theater
2. Chuna`s New International Experience
3. China's Reform at Home: The Unfinished Task
4. Globalization in Light of History.
Some Americans welcome China's bursting onto the world
scene, while others are frightened by it, and their
response to it will vary accordingly. We hear much about
censorship in China, but in Part 3 Gu discusses China's
problems with some candor. Perhaps the fact that the
bookn was published in English in Canada was a factor
in this. The full title of Part 4 is "Globalization
in Light of History: The Rise of European Power; The
American Century; Japan's Global Reach; China's? Sustained
Growth; Great Convergence; Future Challenges".
Much of it is a conversation among three fictitious
characters: Tom, Jack and George. They take up the history
of globalization, beginning with Columbus.
There is an "Afterword" by Andre Gunder Frank,
author of ReOrient (1400-1800) and its planned
sequel- ReOrient in the 19th Century. His thesis
is that China wax predominant in the world's economy
until at least 1800, and that its decline did not take
place until after the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64) and
the Second Opium War (1860). This is not the conventional
view in the West, but it makes the Chinese feel they
are recovering their lost glory. In my ignorance about
this, I take no position, but it fits in with our "Learning
History" project. What do Chinese history books
say about this?
Frank died earlier this year, and he did not completed
ReOrient in the 19th Century. He was a controversial
writer. Here is an obituary in The Guardian (5/4/05)
by Barry K Gills, who collaborated with him:
"Andre Gunder Frank, who has died aged 76 of cancer,
was one of the most prolific and controversial development
economists and sociologists of the postwar era. He was
best known as an early exponent of dependency theory,
which asserted that rich, developed countries gained
from poor, under-developed countries so long as they
remained in the international capitalist system. He
wrote 40 books and nearly a thousand articles and other
pieces. Always ahead of his time, Frank stood tradition
and received theory on their heads over a wide range
of issues. Many of his analyses and predictions concerning
the developing world have proved accurate: the persistence
of poverty despite foreign investment and because of
unmanageable debt servicing; the failures of national
capitalism in developing countries and of Soviet-bloc
and Chinese communism; and the negative effects of global
He anticipated the reappearance of persistent structural
economic crisis and imbalance on an international scale,
and the ineffectiveness of Keynesian and fiscal stimulatory
means to redress this; the polarising consequences of
globalisation, giving rise to social movements for progressive
change; and the simultaneous emergence of nationalist,
ethnic and religious fundamentalist movements that may
eventually undermine the democratic culture. Central
to his outlook was a rejection of Eurocentrism in favour
of a humanocentric, world-historical perspective which
views the west's global dominance as already passing.
Born in Berlin, Frank was the son of a pacifist novelist
father, who sent him to a Swiss boarding school at the
age of four to escape Nazi Germany. He joined his parents
in Hollywood in 1941, going to high school there, and
then in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The "Gunder"
tag arose from a school jibe about his slowness compared
to the Swedish runner Gundar Haag. Frank became a Keynesian
while studying at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania,
for his economics degree, which he gained in 1950, but
by the end of his PhD (1957) at the University of Chicago,
he had rebelled against his monetarist tutor Milton
Friedman, and indeed against all development thinking
of US origin. He rejected mainstream economics in favour
of an "equity before efficiency" approach,
focusing on the importance of social and political factors.
An early paper established the concept of "general
productivity" (later known as "total productivity")
and its centrality to measuring Human Capital And Economic
Growth (1960). It was the 1967 publication of his essay
"The Sociology Of Development And Under-development
Of Sociology" and his first book, Capitalism
And Underdevelopment In Latin America (also 1967),
that catapulted him to international fame. In 1960,
he visited Cuba and then went on to Ghana and Guinea.
He held posts at the University of Brasilia (1962-65)
and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico
City (1965-66), before becoming professor of sociology
at the University of Chile, Santiago (1968-73).
Chile was the homeland of Frank's first wife, Marta
Fuentes, whom he had married in 1962, and who shared
his passion for social justice. His ideas started coming
into favour after Salvador Allende was elected president
in 1970, though when Frank, already persona non grata
in the US for his support of the Cuban revolution, arrived
in 1968, Allende, then president of the senate, had
to meet him at the airport to prevent him being deported.
Following General Pinochet's military coup in 1973,
Frank became a political exile again, this time returning
to Berlin. He dedicated the next two decades to analysing
the global crisis and the failures of neo-liberalism
and Reagan-omics, with posts at the Max Planck Institute,
Bavaria (1973-78), the University of East Anglia (1978-83),
and the University of Amsterdam (1981-94).
From 1972, he turned increasingly to analysis of the
global crisis of capital accumulation, addressing the
disastrous onset of market ideology and the return of
"efficiency before equity" in theory and policy.
By then, he felt that development itself had "all
but disappeared" from discussion, being replaced
by "only economic or debt crisis management".
In the book he and I wrote together, The World System:
Five Hundred Years Or Five Thousand? (1993), Frank
questioned the usefulness of terms such as capitalism,
feudalism or socialism, arguing that "too many
big patterns in world history appear to transcend or
persist despite all apparent alterations in the mode
of production". One instance of such a pattern
was the general shift in economic power from east to
west, and back again, a subject addressed in Frank's
penultimate and perhaps best work, ReOrient (1998).
This book, and its unfinished sequel, ReOrient The
19th Century, explored the historical method in
new directions, again challenging received theory about
the rise of the west and the supposed role of the market
and free trade, as opposed to coercion and imperialism.
Despite the many causes for pessimism, Frank maintained
that the disadvantaged of the world would act to protect
their lives and interests. To the end, he believed that
change for the better was possible. He was principled
and uncompromising. Above all, he was courageous, and
never afraid to be unpopular. He gave people the answers
they needed to hear, not the answers they wanted to
hear. He is survived by his third wife, Alison, and
by his sons, Paul and Miguel, from his marriage to Marta,
who died in 1993."
Note that although Frank wrote the "Afterword"
for Gu's book, their ideas were clearly incompatible.
Possibly Gu helped him while he was studying China.
The last words of Frank's Afterword and of the text
are "The 21st century will be Asian". That
remains to be seen, but Gu would probably agree. Carlos
Lopez, Alberto Gutierres, and Sal Bizzarro (members
of World Association of International Studies) presumably
have some ideas about Frank, who was concerned especially
with Castro's Cuba and Allende's Chile.
Ronald Hilton is a Fellow of Hoover
Institute at Stanford University and Chairman of World
Association of International Studies