Monday, September 5, 2011

Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in the Two Chinas

Troy Parfitt
Western Hemisphere Press (2011)
ISBN 9780986803505
Reviewed by Richard R. Blake for Reader Views

Troy Parfitt introduces an analysis of China's culture, history, government, and citizens exploring them within a cultural context in a time relationship exploring the past, the present, and the future in his book "Why China Will Never Rule the World: Travels in Two Chinas."

I enjoyed Troy's descriptions of the often lush, sometime arid, flora and fauna of China's ever-changing landscape. Whether traveling by train, bus, or following a "scenic walking tour" (suggested in one of his tour books), his descriptions paint picturesque, colorful, and detailed word pictures. In contrast, at times I was disturbed by the exposure to the blind acceptance of the Chinese citizenry to the dismal drab reality of existing circumstances as their destiny.

My perceptions of China's culture and history have been formed through early exposure to missionary biographies, high school curriculum, anti-Communist propaganda, and a number of home visits by Chinese students in our home.

It should come as no surprise to the reader that Troy's own bias, personal philosophy and sometimes cynical outlook come through loud and clear in his writing. His conclusion that China's modernization is largely superficial will meet with criticism and controversy by many. His investigative observations, however, bring out in the open the lack of progress in areas of human rights, educational reform, or freedom of expression in the political arena. I want to think that I will be more objective in my personal understanding and analysis of future news reports regarding China. As an aside, I found it interesting to consider the impact of foreign aggression and of the Opium Wars on China's anti-foreign sentiment.

Although intimidating at first (over 400 pages), I found Troy's writing compelling as well as enlightening. I enjoyed his subtle humor and his entertaining and informative writing style. It is rare to find an author who combines such insight into current affairs and travel. I found the book to be an important learning experience. Troy's impressions, observations, and intimate anecdotes, are engaging, well formulated, and superbly articulated.

The background information, historical anecdotes, travel narrative, and geographical descriptions added immensely to my enjoyment of "Why China Will Never Rule the World."

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