Book review. David Shambaugh, China’s Future. Polity 2016

The book “Chinas future” by David Shambaugh analyze the conventional wisdom which is portrayed by the population of China. The book speaks of the future of China regarding technology and economy whereby it starts by explaining the rise of China. The book mainly talks about the modernization of China and military expansion in the South China Sea. Shambaugh talks extensively about these issues raising concerns about what may affect the economy of China in the future. The theory that states that China is in serious trouble is expounded and facts to support it are given (Shambaugh, 2016).

Generally, this theory paints a downward trajectory of Chinas economy and general progress. This raises the question of why financial analysts and experts keep on terming China as a rising power and future threat to the developed nations. Notably, there is something peculiar about the economic progress of China that creates anxiety among its competitors. Shambaugh makes use of an analogy of a car that is approaching a roundabout whereby China in most probably the car. The car has four exits in the roundabout which are Neo-Totalitarianism, Hard Authoritarianism (stay the course), Soft Authoritarianism, or Semi-Democracy. The author shows that he is in favour of the last exit which is an outright embrace of liberalism and democratic approach to leadership (Shambaugh, 2016).

The author shows his belief in this approach as the only way to save China from the inevitable trouble that awaits it in the future. The overall argument presented in the book is that if China does not adopt a political reform approach with a significant promotion of liberation and focus on the relationship between the party-state and society, there will always be a disparity in economic progress and reforms. This simply shows that if China carries on the current approach, then it will automatically lead to a crisis. The author describes one of the biggest pressures facing leadership in Beijing as the rapidly rising number of middle class. Notably, the book cites that the upper middle class will hit a record 54% of the total number of urban population of China by 2022.

The book uses another metaphor which describes China as a dry forest or grassland during summer where any fire starting can spread very quickly and cause significant damage. The government of China is usually keen to intervene in issues that may lead to an economic collapse. However, according to Shambaugh this approach increases the dependency of the population on the state and does not provide a solution for the political sector which needs reforms (Shambaugh, 2016). The author, therefore, recommends a change in the political approach to adopt Semi-Democracy and ‘competitive coexistence in foreign affairs dealing with other international states.

Shambaugh, however, does not expound on core issues behind his theory such as the driver of the car and the other options that are available for China (Shambaugh, 2016). There is little discussion about the primary forces that have direct control of the economy of China, and therefore it is hard to define what needs to be changed precisely.

Shambaugh’s most crucial point in this book is the perception that he creates of the Chinese politics and their relation to the economy. He expounds on the reasons why the United States views China as a threat. Notably, China has portrayed consistency in its economic growth which is one of the factors which worries the developed countries and superpowers.


Shambaugh, D. L. (2016). China’s future.