Chapter 8: China watching: towards reflection and dialogue
Amid the ever-growing literature on the rise of China, one paradox can hardly escape our attention. That is, evocative of the amusing saying on the Oxford postcard, the more we write and debate about China, the less we seem to know it for sure. Over the years and after so many dedicated conferences, forums and publications, we do not seem to have come any closer to settling the perplexing questions such as what China really is and what its rise means for the rest of the world. The continuing China debate testifies to this lack of consensus. The editors of a book on China watching admit that as a result of the country’s growing complexity, it is increasingly difficult to ‘offer assured conclusions about “China” writ large’. Even William Kristol, a neoconservative authority on everything to do with international relations, once noted that ‘I cannot forecast to you the action of China. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. For some this lack of certainty is all the more reason to keep on deciphering the China puzzle, but to me it is time to reflect on the ways China knowledge has been produced.
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