The United States has a new challenger in Communist China and, as in its earlier confrontation with Moscow in the “first” Cold War, Washington veers between extremes of optimism and pessimism. In the beginning China’s rapid economic development was greeted as a wholly benign development. Most American and European leaders are inverted Marxists who believe that the economic base will at some future date determine the political superstructure. After the fall of the Soviet empire in Europe it was therefore held to be only a matter of time until Beijing’s embrace of the market economy led to a change from dictatorship to democracy.
Yet the Chinese Communist Party, celebrating its 100th anniversary this week, has been unwilling to consign itself to the dustbin of history in the Soviet manner. Deng Xiaoping set the People’s Liberation Army’s tanks on the fledgling democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, months before the Berlin Wall fell. As Niall Ferguson writes in his TLS cover review of the latest New Cold War literature, “Long before Xi Jinping came to power, China’s leaders – appalled by the trifecta of Tiananmen Square, the First Gulf War and the Soviet collapse – had set out to blunt the spearpoints of American hegemony. This was the real point of Deng Xiaoping’s maxim of Tao Guang Yang Hui (hide one’s capabilities and bide one’s time)”. A series of American presidents, meanwhile, sponsored China’s integration into the US-led global trade order, culminating in its admission to the World Trade Organization. Now comes terrible disillusionment. Elsewhere in this issue of the TLS Rana Mitter writes that the Communist party under Xi “in its ambition to create a viable techno-enabled authoritarian state with global interests is converting the Chinese party-state into something very different in type. Revolution may not be too strong a word for it”.
Elsewhere, Margaret Drabble conducts a panoptic survey of Russell Hoban’s adult fiction, much of which is being republished in Penguin Modern Classics. Some will have read Riddley Walker, his linguistically inventive tale set in a post-apocalyptic Kent. Hoban’s range was formidable. I recommend his The Mouse and His Child to children of all ages.
TLS readers will have enjoyed last week’s Summer Books special. Robert Gordon’s review this week of M: Son of the century has persuaded me to take Antonio Scurati’s “extraordinary” novel about Mussolini’s rise to power on my circumscribed travels.
Times Literary Supplement
Istoric preț pentru: Times Literary Supplement no. 6170 / July 2021