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China's Futures
PRC Elites Debate Economics, Politics, and Foreign Policy
Daniel C. Lynch

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March 2015
352 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804792578
Paper ISBN: 9780804794190
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Winner of the 2016 Outstanding Academic Title Award, sponsored by Choice.

China's Futures cuts through the sometimes confounding and unfounded speculation of international pundits and commentators to provide readers with an important yet overlooked set of complex views concerning China's future: views originating within China itself. Daniel Lynch seeks to answer the simple but rarely asked question: how do China's own leaders and other elite figures assess their country's future?

Many Western social scientists, business leaders, journalists, technocrats, analysts, and policymakers convey confident predictions about the future of China's rise. Every day, the business, political, and even entertainment news is filled with stories and commentary not only on what is happening in China now, but also what Western experts confidently think will happen in the future. Typically missing from these accounts is how people of power and influence in China itself imagine their country's developmental course. Yet the assessments of elites in a still super-authoritarian country like China should make a critical difference in what the national trajectory eventually becomes.

In China's Futures, Lynch traces the varying possible national trajectories based on how China's own specialists are evaluating their country's current course, and his book is the first to assess the strengths and weaknesses of "predictioneering" in Western social science as applied to China. It does so by examining Chinese debates in five critical issue-areas concerning China's trajectory: the economy, domestic political processes and institutions, communication and the Internet (arrival of the "network society"), foreign policy strategy, and international soft-power (cultural) competition.

About the author

Daniel C. Lynch is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California. He is the author of After the Propaganda State: Media, Politics, and "Thought Work" in Reformed China (SUP 1999) and Rising China and Asian Democratization: Socialization to "Global Culture" in the Political Transformations of Thailand, China, and Taiwan (SUP 2008).

"Commentators on domestic politics do not challenge one-party rule, but some call for more 'inner-party democracy,' while others view authoritarianism as a developmental stage that will lead to democracy, and a third group is even more rigid than the Chinese Communist Party itself, portraying the current system as perfectly suited to Chinese culture. No one knows the extent to which these debates influence policy, but this skillful inquiry shows how informed insiders see China's possible future trajectories."

Foreign Affairs

"The value of China's Futures lies in its author's investigation of what China's elites themselves have written and said about their nation's future. What Lynch has documented 'is a kaleidoscopically plural society,' even within the strictures of the Leninist state. . . Highly recommended."

—J.D. Gillespie, CHOICE

"China's Futures is illuminating and thought-provokingly good on so many levels. Anyone who still harbors the notion that China is a monolithic echo chamber when it comes to elite discourse and policy formation needs to read this book. Lynch documents with simultaneously laser-like precision and incredible breadth of scope the intense variety of viewpoints that lie behind the veil of neibu (internal circulation) journals."

—Andrew Mertha, Cornell University

"Lynch's mature work of major scholarship opens up new knowledge on the frontiers of scholarship—his command of the policy analysis literature, buttressed by excellent interviews, is exceptional. China's Futures is rich with material that would appeal to academics and an educated public alike—really to anyone who cares about what the rise of China means for the world."

—Edward Friedman, University of Wisconsin-Madison