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The Myth of China as Future Superpower

Troy Parfitt’s Why China Will Never Rule the World systematically dispels the myth that China is poised to become a great superpower, dismantling this prediction through an investigative journey across the entire country. What Parfitt discovers is a culture pervaded by dishonesty, arrogance, and generally negative attitudes that are an ingrained part of its history.


“‘China, China, China,” Parfitt begins, “It seems it’s all you ever hear these days.” In 2010, China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, leading Goldman Sachs to predict that by 2027 it will surpass the United States. Because of its production capability, the emergence of a middle class, the “colossal sum” of foreign direct investment, and the country’s low unemployment rate, many have begun to predict that China will soon replace the United States as world superpower. Parfitt acknowledges China’s economic gains, but then pushes past the graphs and pie charts to show us what’s behind them: a deeply troubled and backward culture.


Parfitt says he finds it odd that the China-set-to-rule-the-world argument hinges solely on statistics. He also thinks it is unusual “that the focus was on what China might one day become and not on what it is at present and what it had been in the past.” He reasons that speculating on China’s future is preferable to examining it in its present because observers lack the capacity to do that. Moreover, he shows us that China’s past, though often glorified, was never very glorious at all. He derides China’s soft-power prize: Confucianism, arguing that it represents only subservience and is anathema to the philosophical underpinnings that have shaped the West. He illustrates how communism is not a historical aberration, but rather a natural extension of or perfect fit for traditional Chinese culture and values. Crucially, he argues that a nation’s economy is only as robust and healthy as its citizenry, and that China’s citizenry has been profoundly hindered by suppression. The implication is that it will be extremely difficult for China to outgrow its world’s-factory-floor stage.


Parfitt reflects on his motivation for writing Why China Will Never Rule the World, saying, “I suppose I had become tired of hearing about how wonderful China’s economy was. I was equally weary of hearing China being labeled a superpower or a great nation, with those terms seldom being qualified.” As the narrator travels from province to province, themes repeat and a clear picture emerges: a culture that has failed to genuinely westernize, believes itself to be superior in every way, fails to seek or provide information, has a disdainful, dismissive, and xenophobic attitude, and perpetuates dishonesty in business and beyond. 


Why China Will Never Rule the World addresses the fact that while China may have the resources to rule the world, it does not have the underlying foundation or awareness that is compulsory in this quest.  Parfitt provides readers with a logical and balanced perspective, quelling any fears they may have while educating them about Chinese society with his acute, yet often amusing observations.