Chapter 2: Threat and opportunity: a bifocal lens
INTERPRETIVE PARADIGMS IN WESTERN UNDER-STANDING OF CHINA’S RISE If there are a thousand readers, there will be a thousand Hamlets. The same can be said of the many Chinas in the eyes of China watchers. Shangri-la, the Promised Land, the Good Earth, Emperor Mao’s blue ants, Dr Fu Manchu, and Charlie Chan are just some of the enduring imageries associated with the Middle Kingdom. Today, with China looming large in almost every aspect of global life, the colours of its biblical coat appear even more varied and baffling. Though still labelled a Communist dictatorship by some, China is seen by others as a dynamic society on the way to greater openness and even democracy. While some pundits liken it to a twenty-first-century Wilhelmine Germany (the so-called ‘Germany analogy’), others conceive it as a largely status quo power, if not yet a fully responsible stakeholder. To some, China resembles a cuddly panda, but others view it more as a hungry, fire-breathing dragon, while still others point to a fragile power under the constant danger of collapse. Concurrent with all this, China has been variably referred to as a modern-day El Dorado, a lucrative market of 1.3 billion customers, the world’s workshop, the biggest polluter on the planet, one of the world’s worst human rights offenders, patron of African misgovernment and leader of an axis of autocracies.
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