Bookcase: China 2020

• Michael Santoro • Cornell University Press • RRP $51.95

Consider for moment the rhetoric around the last Labour government’s signing of bilateral trade agreement with China. Hailed as political coup that would help enhance our export sales to China, it was, more hardened trade pragmatists suggested, hardly worth the paper it was written on. China would not have come to the party unless there was political gain to be had. After all, to them the level of trade done either way is mere petty cash..
Michael Santoro, associate professor of business ethics at the US’ Rutgers Business School and acknowledged China expert, argues that the next decade will be “one of the most important in the history of China” and, because of China’s actual and potential global impact, it may well be one of the most important decades in the history of the world. Why?
The conflicting forces shaping China’s future and its relationship with the rest of the world are tectonic-like. Worker rights, product safety, internet freedom and the rule of law are rubbing up against ruling elite that effectively gives succour to regionalism, corruption, and growing inequity.
China 2020: How Western Business Can – and Should – Influence Social and Political Change in the Coming Decade, is Santoro’s second book on China’s political, economic and social evolution.
His special interest is just how far western multinationals foster or undermine this growing pressure for social and political progress. And whether countries like New Zealand, which clamber over themselves to sign self interest-motivated trade agreements, facilitate enlightened reform.
Santoro asks two questions. What impact will economic reform and prosperity have on political reform in China? And, how can companies operate with moral integrity and ethics in China? His take after 20 years of visiting China.
“I continue to believe that western business is helping to unleash powerful forces of change in China.” But foreign companies have, he argues, settled into “complacent partnership with the Chinese government” that is neither morally acceptable nor in long-term business interests.
Thoroughly researched and reasoned, this is not an attack on China. However, it is critical of western interests that could do more to show China the validity of more liberal options.
The book provides an understanding of the critical issues confronting China and our working relationship with this rapidly evolving nation. complex story satisfyingly and simply told.

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