The Worst Offender or a Strong Contender?
China Modernizes: Threat to the West or Model for the Rest? By Randall Peerenboom. New York: Oxford University Press. 2007. Pp xvi, 416. $35.
I am confused. I thought I knew China well. After all, I was born in China and lived there until I left my parents to come to the United States for college. My memories of nearly twenty years of living in China and the periodic visits since I left are mostly happy. My parents are middle-income state employees who lived in a government-issued, Soviet-style apartment for almost their entire adult lives. Recently, like many other middle-class Chinese families, they bought a small townhouse in a newly developed suburban community and rented out the old apartment in the city to supplement their income. They no longer ride bicycles to work. Instead they bought a small, underpowered Toyota for the now-longer daily commute and baby it like any sixteen-year-old American does her first car. And like many young Americans, my sixty-year-old father is thinking about getting a bigger car with more horsepower and perhaps upgrading to a single-family house at some later time. My mother, on the other hand, seems less enthusiastic about yet more upgrades and more excited about getting to know her new neighbors. My parents are optimistic about their future and looking forward to their retirement. They, and many ordinary Chinese citizens like them, seem happy.