The First China War

I’ve spent the weekend devouring and digesting The War for China’s Wallet. Shaun Rein takes a deep dive into China’s economic strategy, stability, and appeal to developing nations, as well as a timely critique of America’s weakness on all of these accounts. In my notes, I began using the shorthand WCW I, as this is likely the first of many iterations of China wielding its economic weapons. Shaun wisely advises governments and corporations alike to be strong over conciliatory, in order to earn the respect of the Chinese. Yet, this reveals a sobering reality: we must now earn the respect … Continue reading The First China War

More than a Middle Class

A billion people in China are NOT in the middle class. Typically we hear about the roughly 300 million people that make up China’s middle class. This figure makes marketers drool, and is the cause for much self-congratulation by the central government. Even the most cynical China watchers concede a hearty applause. Indeed, over the past generation, improvements to the lifestyles of this rising middle class are nothing short of amazing. Of course, in China having 300 million people in the middle class means that approximately 1 billion people have yet to reach this socioeconomic level. This group includes marginalized … Continue reading More than a Middle Class

Getting Guānxi

“Those who exchange presents with one another Remain friends the longest.” ~From the Hávamál(Mauss 1990[1950]:1) The exchange of gifts or money for favors is commonplace in China. Both the national government (the CCP) and foreign observers tend to gloss this as bribery. However, more broadly in Chinese society, such exchanges are central to the production and maintenance of guānxi (关系) networks, a horizontal form of social organization rooted in reciprocity. Guānxi is based on fluid, person-centered networks, rather than fixed social institutions (Smart 1999:130), and emerges from a system of reciprocity in which social capital takes on a material value. Though … Continue reading Getting Guānxi