The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World

Dexter Roberts. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-08937-3
Journalist Roberts blends economic analysis with human-interest reporting in this probing and accessible examination of the current state of the Chinese economy. Profiling migrant workers from the impoverished southwestern province of Guizhou, Roberts illustrates the hardships faced by hundreds of millions of rural Chinese who left home for factory jobs in coastal cities over the past two decades. Tight controls over the residence permit system that confers education, housing, legal, and social service benefits made these migrant workers second-class citizens in factory cities such as Dongguan, Roberts explains, though many were willing to accept “meager wages and poor working conditions” in exchange for the promise of material prosperity. The Communist Party’s “bargain of continued economic growth in return for political acquiescence” is under threat, however, as large-scale shifts in labor and export markets, wrongheaded developmental policies, and President Xi Jinping’s “sweeping crackdown on civil society” have pushed these workers’ resentments to unstable levels. Roberts carefully documents growing unrest over unpaid wages and “arbitrary” government land seizures and writes movingly of factory workers and rural villagers struggling with the disconnect between what they were promised and what they’ve been able to achieve. The result is a clearheaded and persuasive counter-narrative to the notion that the Chinese economic model is set to take over the world. Readers looking for an informed and nuanced perspective on modern China will find it here. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 01/08/2020
Release date: 03/10/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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