We cannot sustain a conversation about globalization without paying due attention to China and its massive impact on the repositioning of the world’s superpowers, owed to its incredible success in manufacturing. In “China Makes, the World Takes,” James Fallows reflects on the glittering city of Shenzhen, one of many testaments to China’s unthinkably rapid development over the past few decades, while also acknowledging how, for many Chinese, this development meant a transition from poverty in the countryside to arduous working conditions in industrial cities. Having lived in Shanghai for four months, I can attest to the outstanding modernization of China that Fallows narrates in the article.
Fallows argues that China’s growth has been largely beneficial to Western countries and particularly the United States; however, he warns that continued Chinese expansion will pose a serious challenge to the West: How will the United States react when China surpasses it as the largest economy in the world? Those who are wary of increasing tensions in the US-China trading relationship wrongfully assume that the solution to lies in changes in China’s side, he argues. According to Fallows:
If the United States is unhappy with the effects of its interaction with China, that’s America’s problem, not China’s. To imagine that the United States can stop China from pursuing its own economic ambitions through nagging, threats, or enticement is to fool ourselves. If a country does not like the terms of its business dealings with the world, it needs to change its own policies, not expect the world to change [Emphasis added].
In his narrative of his experience in Shenzhen, Fallows illustrates this trend of the West resisting change on a micro-level. He introduces Liam Casey, a 41-year-old Irish man who eats the same plain, Western meal of meat and potatoes every night at the Sheraton Four Points and speaks no Mandarin despite having lived in China for 10 years. This is the man he refers to throughout the article as Mr. China. This particularly resonated with me because I feel I have met quite a few of these “Mr. Chinas” while I was in Shanghai—people who came to China hoping to profit in a country that they could not adapt to or understand. Does further globalization guarantee likely that China will become the greatest superpower? If so, will the US be willing to change, or at least attempt to understand China?