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The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression
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The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  156 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
From The New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Vulcans, an exploration of Chinese authoritarianism and Western capitalism

In The China Fantasy, bestselling author James Mann examines the evolution of American policy toward China and asks, Does it make sense? What are our ideas and hidden assumptions about China? In this vigorous look at China’s political evolut
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published February 15th 2007 by Viking Adult (first published January 26th 2003)
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Troy Parfitt
Mar 07, 2011 Troy Parfitt rated it really liked it
In 'The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain Away Chinese Repression,' author James Mann paints a portrait of the forest that has been obscured by the trees. Despite three and a half decades of catch phrases ("engagement," "integration," etc.) and speech after rhetoric-filled speech made by US presidents and secretaries of state alluding to free market reform’s leading to political reform, China is still run by a ruthless Leninist clique and there is no evidence to suggest this will change in ...more
A must-read for anybody who has an interest in international affairs, especially the bilateral relationship between the United States and China. If you've ever wondered why US politicians seem to turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses in China, this short book is a great exploration of why, and all of the underlying logic by which they operate their agenda of rights-blindness.
Feb 12, 2012 Mark rated it really liked it
Brief and mostly on-target skewering of the perverse logic employed by elite pundits and the foreign policy industrial complex inside the Beltway to excuse the behavior of China's ruling communists. I imagine this book didn't win Mann many friends in DC, but his indignation is well articulated here and justified.
Oct 04, 2009 Ww rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Chinese who believes in Democracy, I found this book revealed what China is and what Chinese goverment is more close to the truth than the most western books or press have done so far.
May 26, 2010 Hermes rated it liked it
Shelves: china
According to Mr. Mann there are two popular scenarios about the development of the world’s largest state and the world’s second largest economy. Either will China collapse under the contradictions of Chinese society, or China will evolve towards democracy, free elections, an independent judiciary, and human rights. This is what Mr. Mann calls the “soothing scenario”.

Proponents of the soothing scenario point at the long term, and simply consider any proof of China’s repression as a temporary setb
May 01, 2011 Ben rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

James Mann vs. Straw men. In this wisp of a book, Mann argues that China watchers in the U.S. blindly argue that China will eventually democratize, either because they underestimate the barriers to democracy, or because they have financial incentives that encourages them to advocate that China will eventually change.

The problems with this book are numerous. First, in my observations of China watchers, few actually have the beliefs he superficially describes here. Most academics, lawyers, and go
Mike Orszag
Jan 22, 2010 Mike Orszag rated it really liked it
This book argues that US policy and business involvement in China has been predicated on a fantasy - that China over time will become more democratic and therefore follow a model like South Korea or Taiwan. The book - written in 2007 before the Olympics - predicts a crackdown before the Olympics and lack of tolerance for dissent which was strikingly like what actually happened.

The book argues that the dynamics in China are much different than elsewhere. The middle class in the cities has little
Claire Wolff
I was really psyched up to read this because the Nation and Times gave it such great reviews...

Unfortunately it is written for aliens, who just landed on our planet and need to know things. Like, What China Is. Things like that.

I recommend reading the first page of each chapter, and nothing more. The good news: If you are irrationally obsessive like me and can't do that, the whole shabang is only about 150 pages long and you can read most of it in your sleep. So it shouldn't monopolize too much
Peter Galamaga
Jul 03, 2014 Peter Galamaga rated it liked it
Interesting, quick read and a good, basic primer on the topic.
I also liked they fact that it seemed to avoid partisanship and spread "blame" and credit around equally.
Two takeaways:
1. If you want to know what really motivates foreign policy, ignore all of the fluffy talk about human rights, democracy etc. and follow the money.
2. American policymakers/people continue to make the mistake of assuming that other countries/cultures think they way we do and really screw things up.
William Shoemaker
Oct 17, 2013 William Shoemaker rated it really liked it
Mann's book boldly throws light on the United States' culpability in the Chinese Communist's Party's uncanny longevity since 1949 as the sole political party allowed any clout in the People's Republic of China. This is one of the most informed and plugged-in China journalists giving an unvarnished account of the incestuous relationship between elites in China and America--and their coordinated repression of lower-class Americans and Chinese (this is class warfare, inverted). A lot of people in a ...more
Annette Lu
Jun 30, 2015 Annette Lu rated it really liked it
Stop believing in what we wish to believe in. Conceive the inconceivable.

Sino-American relationship is really like an office politics drama- all the mistrust, misread and miscalculation. Both have tons of domestic issues.
Apr 30, 2008 Ray rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
James Mann describes, in no uncertain terms, how the U.S. makes excuses for China's repressive regimes. Despite the positive changes made in the U.S. - China relationship since the Nixon Presidency, the author points out how and why China shouldn't be trusted, and is far from a democratic state. He also points out why he feels our Government and businesses are wrong to put so little pressure on China to expand human rights, and how we as a people are not getting the true story regarding the dang ...more
Nov 25, 2007 Kim rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone interested in China/democracy in China
Very important book about China and the potential for democracy there (or lack thereof). Mann takes on the current dominant theories about how China will either democratize slowly or suddenly sometime in the near future and outlines a Third Scenario -- that it will remain authoritarian for years to come. Why is this important? The Third Scenario is something U.S. leaders deny or have not prepared for at all. Mann's writing style makes this book an easy and quick read.
Dec 28, 2007 Donna rated it really liked it
The author had a lot of on-the-ground, non-think-tank experience in China, and the book is mercifully short. It clearly lays out the central tensions in China today and why opening up the country to capitalism is not a surefire remedy for lack of democracy. If he occasionally lapsed into a more-of-a-Chinese-scholar-than-thou tone, I suppose it can be forgiven.
Feb 09, 2011 Dora rated it did not like it
I know, hard to believe, but I was really interested in this book based on it's title, but either the subject isn't as exciting as I thought it would be or this is a boring book. Maybe both? Definitely not reading material for your commute, at the very least, not the way I wanted to end or start my day.
Jun 09, 2010 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives great insight into the delusionary perspective of Western governments and exposes the hypocrisy that comes from putting business benefits above values. It is a very informative book and one that anyone doing business in China should read.
Mar 19, 2008 Nicholas rated it liked it
A good and helpful book that posits the scenario where China does not open up to greater liberty regarding speech, association, religion but continues in growing economically and politically in clout. Helpful perspective and easy read.
Jerel Bonner
Apr 10, 2016 Jerel Bonner rated it liked it
This book will enlighten the reader to understand how western governments, especially the US, have failed to open China to democracy. It also points out that the current strategy is flawed and is destine to fail as well.
The subtitle is inaccurate. It should be something more like "Why US Policymakers, China Experts and Business Leaders Ignore and Excuse China's Continued Political Repression". Or maybe something shorter along those lines.
May 03, 2008 Brian rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like to be afraid of international affairs
China is bad. America is too lenient. China will continue to be bad. That's the story. It doesnt get too deep, and this book you can finish in a single sitting.
Dina McArdle
Sep 16, 2007 Dina McArdle rated it liked it
Short set of essays which argue that materialism and capitalism in China does not equal, nor does it lead to, democracy in the American sense. Very provokative.
Kathleen O'Neal
Jun 30, 2013 Kathleen O'Neal rated it it was amazing
Probably the best book about Sino-American relations I've ever read. If you truly want to understand contemporary China, read this book.
Apr 29, 2012 Matt rated it liked it
Interesting. Geared toward the question of how the US sees China with reference to the then upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Christopher Snow
I couldn't finish this one. Strange, since it's pretty short. However, it didn't keep my attention, at all...
Dec 17, 2007 Moming added it
not the best read about China. Mann's another book, About Face, is much better.
Aug 14, 2008 Tully rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mann presents a basic everyday example of consumer capitalism's easy congruence with the politics of evil. This was probably not his intention, actually---he's based at CSIS---but it comes thru anyway and is valuable. If he's weakest on what model of "engagement" should replace our current optimistic delusion, it's b/c our own country is so thoroughly lost to the power of capital.
David Bradd
David Bradd rated it it was amazing
May 19, 2016
Katie Cherry
Katie Cherry marked it as to-read
May 19, 2016
Sarah marked it as to-read
Apr 29, 2016
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James Mann is the author of six books on American politics and national security issues, including Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet and The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power. A longtime correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, he is currently a fellow in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. ...more
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