Is China Buying the World?

is China Buying the World

Author(s): Peter Nolan

ISBN:          978-0-7456-6078-3

Publisher: Polity Press

Year:          2012

Price:         $19.95

Reviewed by Avinash Godbole, Research Assistant, IDSA, New Delhi.

Peter Nolan’s book, Is China Buying the World?, is catchy for its title and timely for the relevance of its core subject. The staggering figures associated with China’s economic, and consequently geopolitical, growth during the last three decades have given rise to various questions associated with the consequences of China’s rise/growth and what it means for the countries and people elsewhere.

Peter Nolan is Professor of Chinese Management at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Chinese Big Business Programme at the Judge Business School. In this short book of less than 150 pages, Professor Nolan tries to demystify China’s increasing participation and rising position the global economic order and brings to the table the reasons why China’s greater role does not necessarily translate into an omni-dominant position that many have come to believe would eventually happen.

Professor Nolan sets out the agenda of the book when he says, “Fear is often stimulated by lack of knowledge. In the midst of the dangerous situation in the global economy, the tense climate in international relations between China and the West, and the passionate outpouring of views in the global mass media, it is important that citizens in the high-income countries are presented with a balanced view of their own business system, that of China, and the place of each of them in the overall global political economy” (P. 14).

The author looks at the structure of the global economy in its current avatar and looks at the nature of international business in the era of globalisation. He trails the processes of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions and near monopolistic positioning of top few companies in important and growing global businesses like automobile, pharmaceuticals and IT and ITES. He also brings out how the global business is increasingly detached from the political economy of its ‘home’ country (P. 12) and acquired a characteristic of its own in participating in and benefiting from the processes of globalisation. These firms have their production and business hubs outside their home countries, including in China, and China’s economic rise is in part by partnering with these business giants and it is not likely to show them the door anytime soon. If anything, Chinese companies have a long way to go before they can challenge these firms due to the latter’s financial and technological advantages. In short, the Washington Consensus is here to stay and China’s rise is from participating in it and the Beijing Consensus is, in all likelihood, filling the space which has remained outside the purview of the former.

Instances like the CNOOC’s Unocol bid, the Dubai Ports World controversy and the debate, first in Europe and now in countries like India, about the possible dual role of companies like Huawei has given rise to the debate on the geopolitical consequences of China’s rise. While the author deals with their economic origins, he only touches upon the geopolitical aspects of these debates without deeper analyses. Similarly, while the author mentions it in his rationale for the book quoted above, there is little, if any, discussion on the political economy of China’s development. More debate and information on China’s domestic concerns, party’s thinking on development and economy and Chinese academic and media debates on these issues are missing from this book. For example, the Japanese economy is feeling the heat due to reduced business in China in the aftermath of their renewed fight over Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands. While its inclusion would have enriched the debate further, the absence of discussion on China’s political economy does not take anything away from this book as it remains a solid and profound eye opener for readers from non-economics background. It is also a substantial answer to the proponents of China threat theory; China is benefiting from the order as it is and would not prefer to disturb the apple cart anytime soon.

Suggested citation: 

Avinash Godbole (2012). Review of “Is China buying the world?” edited by Peter Nolan, East Asian Integration Studies, Vol. 6, no. 11, Internet file: