Book Review: China's Global Reach:
- Markets, Multinationals, and Globalization

by Ronald Hilton

Author: George Zhibin Gu
Publisher and Webpage:
ISBN 1-4120-6911-4
253 pages; September 2005

This book has on the cover a colored picture of skyscrapers, symbols of the new China the book describes. Upward mobility used to be primarily an American social phenomenon, but it has become global, as many members of World Association of International Studies exemplify. Jordi Molins described how his humble family prospered after it moved from Murcia to Catalonia. Likewise George Zhibin Gu opens his book with "Growing Up in China",, an account of the hardships suffered during the disastrous Great Leap Forward , when there was nationwide starvation in China. During the Cultural Revolution, education was neglected, and schools were in a lamentable state. Then China changed, and Gu was able to go to Nanjing University and subsequently to the US, where he studied at the University of Michigan, earning two MS degrees and a Ph.D. The US was in a depression when he arrived, and many people were desperate, so he saw the darker side of capitalism.

His book is divided into four parts:
1. China as a New Global Theater
2. China`s New International Experience
3. China's Reform at Home: The Unfinished Task
4. Globalization in Light of History.

Some Americans welcome China's bursting onto the world scene, while others are frightened by it, and their response to it will vary accordingly. We hear much about censorship in China, but in Part 3, Gu discusses China's problems with some candor. Perhaps the fact that the bookn was published in English in Canada was a factor in this. The full title of Part 4 is "Globalization in Light of History: The Rise of European Power; The American Century; Japan's Global Reach; China's? Sustained Growth; Great Convergence; Future Challenges". Much of it is a conversation among three fictitious characters: Tom, Jack and George. They take up the history of globalization, beginning with Columbus.

There is an "Afterword" by Andre Gunder Frank, author of ReOrient (1400-1800) and its planned sequel- ReOrient in the 19th Century. His thesis is that China wax predominant in the world's economy until at least 1800, and that its decline did not take place until after the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64) and the Second Opium War (1860). This is not the conventional view in the West, but it makes the Chinese feel they are recovering their lost glory. In my ignorance about this, I take no position, but it fits in with our "Learning History" project. What do Chinese history books say about this?

Frank died earlier this year, and he did not completed ReOrient in the 19th Century. He was a controversial writer. Here is an obituary in The Guardian (5/4/05) by Barry K Gills, who collaborated with him:

"Andre Gunder Frank, who has died aged 76 of cancer, was one of the most prolific and controversial development economists and sociologists of the postwar era. He was best known as an early exponent of dependency theory, which asserted that rich, developed countries gained from poor, under-developed countries so long as they remained in the international capitalist system. He wrote 40 books and nearly a thousand articles and other pieces. Always ahead of his time, Frank stood tradition and received theory on their heads over a wide range of issues. Many of his analyses and predictions concerning the developing world have proved accurate: the persistence of poverty despite foreign investment and because of unmanageable debt servicing; the failures of national capitalism in developing countries and of Soviet-bloc and Chinese communism; and the negative effects of global capitalism.

He anticipated the reappearance of persistent structural economic crisis and imbalance on an international scale, and the ineffectiveness of Keynesian and fiscal stimulatory means to redress this; the polarising consequences of globalisation, giving rise to social movements for progressive change; and the simultaneous emergence of nationalist, ethnic and religious fundamentalist movements that may eventually undermine the democratic culture. Central to his outlook was a rejection of Eurocentrism in favour of a humanocentric, world-historical perspective which views the west's global dominance as already passing.

Born in Berlin, Frank was the son of a pacifist novelist father, who sent him to a Swiss boarding school at the age of four to escape Nazi Germany. He joined his parents in Hollywood in 1941, going to high school there, and then in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The "Gunder" tag arose from a school jibe about his slowness compared to the Swedish runner Gundar Haag. Frank became a Keynesian while studying at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, for his economics degree, which he gained in 1950, but by the end of his PhD (1957) at the University of Chicago, he had rebelled against his monetarist tutor Milton Friedman, and indeed against all development thinking of US origin. He rejected mainstream economics in favour of an "equity before efficiency" approach, focusing on the importance of social and political factors.

An early paper established the concept of "general productivity" (later known as "total productivity") and its centrality to measuring Human Capital And Economic Growth (1960). It was the 1967 publication of his essay "The Sociology Of Development And Under-development Of Sociology" and his first book, Capitalism And Underdevelopment In Latin America (also 1967), that catapulted him to international fame. In 1960, he visited Cuba and then went on to Ghana and Guinea. He held posts at the University of Brasilia (1962-65) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City (1965-66), before becoming professor of sociology at the University of Chile, Santiago (1968-73).

Chile was the homeland of Frank's first wife, Marta Fuentes, whom he had married in 1962, and who shared his passion for social justice. His ideas started coming into favour after Salvador Allende was elected president in 1970, though when Frank, already persona non grata in the US for his support of the Cuban revolution, arrived in 1968, Allende, then president of the senate, had to meet him at the airport to prevent him being deported. Following General Pinochet's military coup in 1973, Frank became a political exile again, this time returning to Berlin. He dedicated the next two decades to analysing the global crisis and the failures of neo-liberalism and Reagan-omics, with posts at the Max Planck Institute, Bavaria (1973-78), the University of East Anglia (1978-83), and the University of Amsterdam (1981-94).

From 1972, he turned increasingly to analysis of the global crisis of capital accumulation, addressing the disastrous onset of market ideology and the return of "efficiency before equity" in theory and policy. By then, he felt that development itself had "all but disappeared" from discussion, being replaced by "only economic or debt crisis management". In the book he and I wrote together, The World System: Five Hundred Years Or Five Thousand? (1993), Frank questioned the usefulness of terms such as capitalism, feudalism or socialism, arguing that "too many big patterns in world history appear to transcend or persist despite all apparent alterations in the mode of production". One instance of such a pattern was the general shift in economic power from east to west, and back again, a subject addressed in Frank's penultimate and perhaps best work, ReOrient (1998). This book, and its unfinished sequel, ReOrient The 19th Century, explored the historical method in new directions, again challenging received theory about the rise of the west and the supposed role of the market and free trade, as opposed to coercion and imperialism.

Despite the many causes for pessimism, Frank maintained that the disadvantaged of the world would act to protect their lives and interests. To the end, he believed that change for the better was possible. He was principled and uncompromising. Above all, he was courageous, and never afraid to be unpopular. He gave people the answers they needed to hear, not the answers they wanted to hear. He is survived by his third wife, Alison, and by his sons, Paul and Miguel, from his marriage to Marta, who died in 1993."

Note that although Frank wrote the "Afterword" for Gu's book, their ideas were clearly incompatible. Possibly Gu helped him while he was studying China. The last words of Frank's Afterword and of the text are "The 21st century will be Asian". That remains to be seen, but Gu would probably agree. Carlos Lopez, Alberto Gutierres, and Sal Bizzarro (members of World Association of International Studies) presumably have some ideas about Frank, who was concerned especially with Castro's Cuba and Allende's Chile.

Ronald Hilton is a Fellow of Hoover Institute at Stanford University and Chairman of World Association of International Studies

This paper is taken from