NEWS | April 5, 2021

Book Review: China’s Crisis of Success

By Paul David-Albert Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, Air University Press

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China’s Crisis of SuccessWilliam H. Overholt. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. 304 pp.

Economic, societal, and governmental advancement are a series of incremental shifts toward modernity and prosperity. Moving too quickly on all fronts foments instability and unrest. Likewise, advancing in one category while maintaining the status quo in the others creates lopsided, unsustainable advancement. Following the conclusion of World War II, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and China faced a diverse set of geopolitical challenges, but they experienced a similar set of domestic political and economic factors. They all had relatively simple economies, societies with preexisting shared national identities, and a pervasive fear of societal collapse or destruction. These factors created the conditions for successive economic miracles in these countries. Ultimately, each of these countries achieved impressive economic growth year over year—sometimes as high as 10-percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP)—albeit at different times throughout the twentieth century. China’s economic miracle did not begin until 1979 after Deng Xiaoping assumed leadership of the country following Mao Zedong’s death.

William Overholt’s book, China’s Crisis of Success (2018), proves useful as a road map of China’s rapid economic development from 1979–2010, the transitions China’s economy must undergo to continue growing, and the political challenges Pres. Xi Jinping faces going forward.

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