It's still on sale at airports – outside of the Chinese Mainland – and it is an interesting read while flying into Shanghai's Pudong airport on a new China Eastern jet packed with business people racing to invest in the place Gordon says will inevitably collapse.
There's a disconnect here, and I thought it would be interesting to review Gordon's thesis in light of developments over the past two or three years.
The book doesn't pull its punches or equivocate. Its prediction is clear and stark – the collapse of China's political, economic and social order is inevitable: the confluence of problems can lead to no other conclusion.
"As time passes, the underlying problems fester," Gordon states. "Economic dislocations become social ones, with dark political overtones. At some point there will be no solution. Then the economy, and the government, will collapse. We are not far from this time."
But when, Gordon, when?
"Beijing has about five years to put things right," he replies. "No government, not even China's, can defy the laws of gravity forever."
Gordon wrote these words in 2001, and updated them in 2002. So we are sort of half way there. Signs of impending collapse? Not too many of those to be seen.
He's right that China has problems, of course, and he lists them all out, including the debt-ridden banking system, inefficient state industry, weak global economy, political inflexibility, social change.
"Any of these factors – weak treasury, political transition, September 11 – would be difficult for China to take," he says. "Add them all together and we can see why the regime will fail."
Regime? Now there's a loaded word.
The book fails because the author clearly has an agenda, declines to take into account the many positive changes taking place in China, and assumes the worst on all counts.
Could Gordon be right? China certainly has the capacity to surprise – 1989 surely proved that. But most of the evidence out there – growing sales of private cars, holiday packages to Thailand, booming restaurant business up and down the country, the growing list of foreign companies making money in China – doesn't seem to be working in his favor.
Congratulations to Gordon for avoiding the temptation to hedge his bets, and we still have a couple of years to go. But I think he's wrong.
The Coming Collapse of China by Gordon G. Chang, published by Arrow Books, ISBN: 037550477X
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