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Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the 21st Century

Acclaimed exploration of China’s emergence as the most dynamic center of current economic expansion.

In the late eighteenth century, the political economist Adam Smith predicted an eventual equalization of power between the West and the territories it had conquered. In this magisterial new work, Giovanni Arrighi shows how China's extraordinary rise invites us to reassess radically the conventional reading of The Wealth of Nations. He examines how recent US attempts to create the first truly global empire were conceived to counter China's spectacular economic success Now America’s disastrous failure in Iraq has made the People’s Republic of China the true winner in the US War on Terror.

China may soon become again the kind of noncapitalist market economy that Smith described, an event that will reconfigure world trade and the global balance of power.

Reviews

  • “Arrighi is a student of the French historian Fernand Braudel, and the book has the range and ambition of Braudel's work.”
  • Adam Smith in Beijing follows, and completes, his previous volume The Long Twentieth Century. Together they constitute a stunning work of world history with theoretical and political intent whose intellectual roots lie in a mix of radical historiographical traditions.”
  • “This book is an impressive result; it will have a major impact ... Arrighi argues his case in great detail – using an elaborate exegesis of The Wealth of Nations, which will send many readers back to that text in amazement.”

Blog

  • In the Shadows of Olympians: Unorganized Workers in Beijing

    As China's economy stagnates and the New York Times and Strike Map report burgeoning labour movements, the lives of Chinese workers draw greater scrutiny. This extract from Scattered Sand by Hsiao-Hung Pai examines these lives; the 'scattered sand' of Pai's book refers to the migration of 200 million workers from rural provinces to urban centres that have been integral to China's economy. The extract evidences the precarity of these workers, who live without residency status and at the mercy of their employers, to quote Pai the picture painted 'picture bears little resemblance to that of the footloose globe-trotter moving around the world in a cocoon of global Chinese capitalism and culture'.



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  • From Illusion to Empire: Chuang on The Creation of the Chinese Economy

    Chuang is a collective of communists who consider the “China question” to be of central relevance to the contradictions of the world’s economic system and the potentials for its overcoming. Our goal is to formulate a body of clear-headed theory capable of understanding contemporary China and its potential trajectories. In this first issue, we outline our basic conceptual framework and illustrate the current state of class conflict in China. We also include translated reports and interviews with the proletarians engaged in these struggles, pairing our theory with primary sources drawn from class dynamics that might otherwise remain abstract.

    The selection below comes from our centerpiece article on the socialist era, “Sorghum and Steel: The Socialist Developmental Regime and the Forging of China,” the first in a three part economic history of China. The full first issue including this article will be released in print and online in a few months. To read more, including a sample article from the issue, visit our website.

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  • China's Twentieth Century: A reading list on Chinese history, culture and politics

    The New York Times this week reported that labour struggles in China have multiplied over the past year since the countries economy started to slow down. While this may have been news to many in the western media, used to running stories reflecting on the "Chinese model" of development, and the staggering years of double-digit GDP growth, for the left this was less suprising. Organisations like the China Labour Bulletin have been charting and mapping the waves of labour unrest in China for years now. But, this does raise the spectre of how we see China and it's position in relation to global capitalism.

    This week on the Verso blog we'll be highlighting the Verso books in this reading list that cast a critical look at China's history, politics and culture.



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Other books by Giovanni Arrighi