Follow Here To Purchase Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas

Author: Troy Parfitt

Publisher: Western Hemisphere Books

ISBN: 978-0-9868035-0-5

In a book that has been described as ‘thesis-driven travel narrative – a physical and philosophical journey through the Chinese world’ Troy Parfitt enters a world very few westerners are familiar with or will ever understand. Describing himself neither as a Sinophile or Sinophobe, the author has approached his subject in a completely unbiased way. In many respects this book is a masterpiece that enters the psyche of the real China as well as Taiwan and their peoples. The book is fairly hefty (424 pages) yet absorbing and most entertaining. Specifically, it goes far beyond the scope of the vast majority of travel books on China by endeavouring to discover the aspects the authorities endeavour to keep visitors from seeing. The work is thoroughly researched and well written, at times in a humorous tone, both as a travelogue and a fairly hefty history of the nation, its past and its politics. As such it is a combination that works extremely well though it would benefit from an index to allow serious students to dip in-and-out as their fancy takes them.

The Canadian author is a Mandarin speaker who is unusually familiar with the intricacies of both Chinas, having lived in Taipei for ten years and travelled extensively throughout the PRC for three months, visiting seventeen provinces. Despite being the world’s second largest economy, Parfitt’s findings dismiss any commonly held idea that China is heading towards global hegemony. Despite its commercial inroads into Africa and South America and the vast sums China spends on offensive weapons (US$30bn in 2009/10 with a reported $45bn allocated to national defence) there is little to suggest China is capable of ruling the world. It is a daunting fact that 800 of the PRC’s missiles are aimed at Taiwan, an issue that the author given just consideration. He argues that it is doubtful whether the Chinese could ever escape from its Confucian past to fully embrace western ideals. This is clearly illustrated by a political unwillingness to address its poor human rights issues or to adopt education reforms and political liberalisation.

Throughout the book Parfitt portrays a fascinating country that is disorganised, untidy, jerry-built and unwelcoming, and dominated by officials who are obsessed with hiding the truth. The attitude of many Chinese reflects that of authority and is frequently abhorrent and contemptuous, especially towards foreigners. Unlike many authors, who tend to view a nation through tinted glasses, Parfitt has endeavoured to blend with the people by engaging individuals whenever possible and interviewing them. These include discussion with a former PLA soldier, a cultural attaché and a well-known Chinese writer. This provides a rare and exceptional insight into how ‘thinking Chinese’ view their country and compare it to the outside world. Much of what he discovers suggests a country that thrives on lies, myths, deceit and an unhealthy level of political misinformation. The author concludes that any view that China is set to dominate the world is, at best, extraordinarily simplistic. He also discovers that in spite of China’s efforts to mimic the west, the majority of its people do not wish to embrace democracy. As such, China is a country at odds with itself.

There are not that many books that bother to discuss the issues concerning Taiwan – either from a tourism point of view, or as a discussion on the island’s history - so it is admirable that both are compared in this single volume. Troy Parfitt does a good job to paint an interesting portrait of a friendly, yet at times curiously unstable people. The Taiwanese state of mind is perhaps understandable considering they are forced to endure living less than 100-miles from an inhospitable PRC that aims missiles at them and refuses to accept the islands’ political status. If the book contained just the last few chapters on the Republic of China it would be a fascinating read; but as a complete entity it is fulfilling, intelligent and fascinating discovery of the two Chinas. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn the truth (rather than the official version) about the history, geography, culture, social structure and politics of China; it is a work of wisdom.

Follow Here To Purchase Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas