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Boning Up on Beijing

Ten books you need to read about the Chinese threat.

By 11.16.11

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President Obama is on a nine-day junket soaking up some sun on the other side of the Pacific. Aside from visiting his boyhood home of Indonesia, he's dropped into Hawaii to grace the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit with his presence. In between calling corporate America lazy and complaining about how his new half-trillion stimulus package can't get passed, he's bellyaching about China, saying they need to play by the rules. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 70 percent of Americans perceive the People's Republic to be a threat, but they're not exactly sure why. Here's a list of 10 books to help the curious reader bone up on Beijing:

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order by Martin Jacques (Penguin, 2009): The title says it all. No matter where one travels around the world, there is a sense of inevitability that the People's Republic of China (PRC) is destined to be the next preeminent global power. This rise can only happen in lockstep with America's demise, which also is seen as inevitable due to U.S. fiscal indiscipline. "Hitherto, the arrival of a new global hegemon has ushered in a major change in the international order, as was the case with both Britain and then the United States," the author, a columnist for the UK's leftist Guardian, writes. "Given that China promises to be so inordinately powerful and different, it is difficult to resist the idea that in time its rise will herald the birth of a new international order."

Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World by Joshua Kurlantzick (Yale University Press, 2008): This must-read shows how Beijing is pulling all the levers of statecraft to make headway winning friends and influencing people. In short, the Chinese have courted the world by taking advantage of the fact that America's eye has been off the ball and much of world neglected while we've been bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "For the Chinese, soft power means anything outside of the military and security realm, including not only popular culture and public diplomacy but also more coercive economic and diplomatic levers like aid and investment and participation in multilateral organizations," the author, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, explains. "It can threaten other nations with these sticks if they do not help China achieve its goals, but it can offer sizable carrots if they do." The recent entreaty for Beijing to bail out the collapsing euro zone is an example of how the PRC can buy U.S. allies by sprinkling financial goodies around.

Mao: A Reinterpretation by Lee Feigon (Ivan R. Dee, 2003): This is one of the most dastardly dissertations published thus far in the 21st century because its aim is to let Mao off the hook for the tens of millions of souls who perished under his monstrous rule. "It was not until the late 1950s that Mao became a genuinely creative and original thinker and actor," the author sings. "Not only did Mao begin the process of opening up China to the outside world, he also created the industrial infrastructure that laid the basis for the resuscitation of the Chinese economy during the Deng years." He takes offense that Mao is frequently compared to Hitler and Stalin and praises the Chinese villain for being more of an anarchist than a Marxist and for leading a truly populist "inclusive revolution" as opposed to one framed by Ivory Tower intellectual elites. It's helpful to read this book to understand to what lengths Sino apologists will go to whitewash the history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 by Frank Dikotter (Walker, 2010): This groundbreaking work, which is based on Chinese archives never before seen, is vital to countering pro-communist revisionist trash like the Mao encomium by Feigon. The author proves that Chairman Mao's so-called Great Leap Forward was responsible for more than 45 million deaths, much more than the previous estimates of 15-32 million. Although usually explained away as the result of mass famine accidentally caused by backward agricultural policies, this book shows that millions were tortured and starved in mass murder by design similar to what was perpetrated in Nazi Germany, Pol Pot's Cambodia, and the Soviet Union. It's important not to forget that today's Chinese rulers operate in the party that Mao built, and they still play by his rules.

Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power by David Aikman (Regnery, 2003): The former Beijing bureau chief of Time magazine gives a peak behind the curtain to expose how the purportedly modern, enlightened Communist Party continues to persecute and brutalize its own citizens today for the crime of religious devotion. Beijing's fundamental operating principle is control, and it cannot control faith -- so it tries to suppress it. Whether it's bulldozing house churches, throwing 80-year-old Catholic bishops into jail, confiscating Bibles from private homes or sentencing pastors to hard labor, it's dangerous to believe in Christ in the Middle Kingdom. It's a warning that the world would be a much meaner, brutal place if tyrannical China supplants freedom-espousing America as the dominant power.

Accepting Authoritarianism: State-Society Relations in China's Reform Era by Teresa Wright (Stanford University Press, 2010): This is one of the most original works on the PRC is years because it shatters the myth that as China becomes richer, it also will naturally become freer. To the contrary, Beijing has co-opted society's upwardly mobile. Ironically, some of communism's biggest supporters are China's new millionaires and the white-collar professional class. The status quo in the country is working out well for them so there's no reason to rock the boat. This newly enriched mob supports repressive policies to keep the masses down because that limits competition for the country's wealth.

China: Fragile Superpower -- How China's Internal Politics Could Derail Its Peaceful Rise by Susan L. Shirk (Oxford University Press, 2007): This alternate theory sheds light on what could happen if the PRC does not in fact gobble up the planet, shove America aside, and take everything over. There's a good chance the whole place could simply crack up and fall apart due to massive demographic, political, financial, social, environmental, security, and resource-oriented crises that are all simmering at the same time. "The worst nightmare of China's leaders is a national protest movement of discontented groups -- unemployed workers, hard-pressed farmers and students -- united against the regime by the shared fervor of nationalism," the author, a former deputy assistant secretary of state writes. "During an internal crisis, keeping the lid on at home is much more important than foreign relations." How a threatened CCP would react to an existential threat is anybody's guess, but Beijing desperation could pose the most serious danger of a Chinese war. This raises the question: What happens to the PRC's nuclear weapons if the nation breaks up?

The China Threat: How the People's Republic Targets America by Bill Gertz (Regnery, 2000). This classic was ahead of the curve in warning that the rise of the red dragon was a phenomenon to fear, not welcome. "The fundamental lesson of the 20th century is that democracies cannot coexist indefinitely with powerful and ambitious totalitarian regimes," the respected Washington Times national security editor posits. "Sooner or later the competing goals and ideologies bring conflict, whether hot or cold, until one or the other side prevails." This book lays out all Beijing's machinations from proliferating arms and developing space-based weapons to stealing technology and encircling democratic Taiwan. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Beijing Consensus: How China's Authoritarian Model Will Dominate the Twenty-first Century by Stefan Halper (Basic Books, 2010): This cautionary tale argues that the democratic age is over, and it's being replaced by a Chinese model based on market authoritarianism that prioritizes economic growth while suppressing political liberties. "China is the principal international creditor, and we see the possibility of a shift away from Pax Americana and toward the rising economies of Asia," the author predicts. "The market democratic model that America has promoted as the universal endpoint of political-economic evolution has been blamed around the world -- rightly or wrongly -- for its unregulated excess and for bringing on a multiyear, global downturn." The result is a global turn away from freedom in favor of systems based on more internal control. This dynamic could undo centuries of progress that have sanctified the value of the individual.

Bowing to Beijing: How Barack Obama Is Hastening America's Decline and Ushering a Century of Chinese Domination by Brett M. Decker and William C. Triplett II (Regnery, 2011): OK, full disclosure, this book was written by me, but that means I can guarantee that it's full of original information about Beijing's massive military buildup, corporate espionage, currency manipulation, Christian persecution, forced sterilizations, slave labor and human-organ trafficking. Its goal is to convince the reader why the Beijing Consensus must not be allowed to come to pass. The takeaway is that the world's largest debtor nation cannot remain a superpower for very long, but President Obama is driving the U.S. economy into the ground, creating China's opportunity to dominate us. America needs to clean up its own financial house to re-solidify its place as the leader of the free world.

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About the Author

Brett M. Decker is consulting director at the White House Writers Group. He is coauthor of the book Bowing to Beijing (Regnery, Nov. 14, 2011).