What the U.S. Can Learn from China
An Open-Minded Guide to Treating Our Greatest Competitor as Our Greatest Teacher
Publication Date: January 2012
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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While America is still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis, a high unemployment rate, and a surge in government debt, China’s economy is the second largest in the world, and many predict it will surpass the United States’ by 2020. President Obama called China’s rise “a Sputnik moment”—will America seize this moment or continue to treat China as its scapegoat?
Mainstream media and the U.S. government regularly target China as a threat. Rather than viewing China’s power, influence, and contributions to the global economy in a negative light, Ann Lee asks, What can America learn from its competition?
Why did China recover so quickly after the global economic meltdown? What accounts for China’s extraordinary growth, despite one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world? How does the Chinese political system avoid partisan rancor but achieve genuine public accountability? From education to governance to foreign aid, Lee details the policies and practices that have made China a global power and then isolates the ways the United States can use China’s enduring principles to foster much-needed change at home.
This is no whitewash. Lee is fully aware of China’s shortcomings, particularly in the area of human rights. She has relatives who suffered during the Cultural Revolution. But by overemphasizing our differences with China, the United States stands to miss a vital opportunity. Filled with sharp insights and thorough research, What the U.S. Can Learn from China is Lee’s rallying cry for a new approach at a time when learning from one another is the key to surviving and thriving.
Ann Lee is a professor of finance and economics at New York University and a senior fellow with the public policy think tank Demos. Fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, she was a visiting graduate economics professor at Peking University in 2008. She has also been an investment banker at Bankers Trust and Alex. Brown & Sons and a partner at two multibillion-dollar hedge fund firms. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Forbes, and Businessweek, and she regularly guests on CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg, CNN, NPR, and many other television and radio stations.
Foreword Author Ian Bremmer is a political scientist specializing in US foreign policy, states in transition, and global political risk. He is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk research and consulting firm.
Praise for What the U.S. Can Learn from China
“Ann Lee shows us how the United States can also learn much from the country that will soon have the world’s largest economy. Professor Lee foresaw the ‘Great Recession’ two years before it happened; we should all listen to her now as she describes how China and the United States can work together to shape a safer and more prosperous world.”
—Charlie Kolb, President, Committee for Economic Development, and former Deputy Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Education
“The author makes sensible points about all the topics covered and has interesting points of view about so many issues. A wide-sweeping book that makes engaging reading.”
—William Lewis, Founding Director, McKinsey Global Institute
“A refreshing departure from the unilateral perspective hobbling geopolitical debate. Even those who see major flaws in China’s system will find themselves agreeing with many of Ann Lee’s provocative prescriptions.”
—Joseph Menn, U.S. correspondent, Financial Times, and author of Fatal System Error
“Ann Lee takes issue with those who see China’s rise only as a threat to America and not also as an opportunity. By looking at some of the root policies and attitudes behind China’s recent success, she shows how lessons from China can bring Americans full circle, back to the values and aspirations that made the United States a great country in the first place. Her book adds much-needed nuance to the debates over China’s role in the global economy and as a rising world power.”
—Michele Wucker, President, World Policy Institute
“Misconceptions abound about China and how it works today. Ann Lee’s book takes a fresh and controversial look at the Chinese system and its strengths.”
—Josh Lerner, Jacob H. Schiff Professor of Investment Banking, Harvard Business School
“Ann Lee’s What the U.S. Can Learn from China is a rare achievement in today’s examinations of U.S.-China relations: it supplements an already sophisticated analysis with a deep cultural understanding that is richly valuable and laudably objective. Ann’s ability to ask the tough questions helps Americans to understand China better and China to see itself clearer.”
—Nancy Yao Maasbach, Executive Director, Yale-China Association
“This book sparkles on literally every page with surprising insights and crucial information that everybody in America—and China—simply must become acquainted with or be reminded of. Whether it be about education, culture, politics and economics, or business, Ms. Lee has much, much more to teach both Americans and Chinese than any of us knew that we had yet to learn.”
—Robert Hockett, Professor of Financial and International Economic Law, Cornell University
“It is no secret that China has become a convenient scapegoat for America’s troubles even as its success is envied. This book has a lofty goal: to reduce the potential for international conflict by increasing Westerners’ understanding of that success. Ann Lee’s well-written analysis shows that China’s success is not merely based on a modern mercantilist policy but rather is due to adoption of best practices from the West—from building social safety nets to conducting business according to international standards. What is most interesting is Lee’s main thesis: America needs to look to China to save itself, by reimporting the lessons the West has forgotten. This is a serious book that should be read as an antidote to all the China-bashing myths circulating in America.”
—L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics, University of Missouri–Kansas City, and Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute
“There are so many insecurities we all share about China; this book brilliantly quantifies and identifies many of them. The author’s perspective is one of the most interesting and unique. This makes the book an extremely compelling read. The message is loud and clear: Americans ignore China at their peril. This book answers so many questions we’re unfortunately afraid to ask.”
—Lawrence G. McDonald, Senior Director, Credit Sales and Trading, Newedge USA, LLC