Dong’s book Shanghai introduces us Shanghai, a city born in greed and humiliation. Shanghai was like “the ugly daughter grew up in the shadow of celestial Empire’s defeat by outsiders in the opium war. (p.2, Dong)” From late 1800s to 1949, “in Shanghai, more than anywhere else in China, progressive-minded Chinese recognizes the need for China to adopt modern enterprises and technology. (p.66, Dong)”
Shanghai, a treaty port ruled simultaneously by three separate municipal regimes, in the first half of the 20th century rose to become China's largest city for many important functions, such as trade, financing, manufacturing, journalism, publishing and education. However, the city had enclaves beyond the immediate reach of the Chinese government, which permitted sections of it to become havens of dissent. The West ruled Shanghai. During 1842-1949, Western countries not only was writing rules for the China and West games played in China but also was changing the rules as they wished.
In 2010, Edward Steinfeld, who is well known for his expertise in Chinese politics and economics, and international business developments, published the book Playing Our Game Why China’s Rise Doesn’t Threaten the West, where he announced “In essence, China today – a country at the peak of its modernization revolution-is doing something it historically never really did before. It is playing our game. (p.18)”
In the past decade, the world has seen the rise of China in the contexts of the soaring levels of exports, the enormous foreign exchange reserves, the extraordinary growth rates, and the utter roughness of the system even in the face of severe worldwide recessions. Many commentators have a certain level of suspicion in viewing this China’s rise. A lot of people in the West are concerned about the imperialist China. Is the United States just little more than a customer and borrower of Beijing? Is the West no longer ruling the Sino-Western relationship? Is the West dilapidating?
On the other hand, Steinfeld has a much different thesis about China’s rise. He argues that China’s growth is stimulating American commercial dominance because “China is playing our game- the game of modern capitalism effectively defined by the United States since World War II and practiced, in various forms, by all the nations of the advanced industrial West(p.24)”, a game of globalized production, global supply-chain and global R&D. Therefore, China’s rise doesn’t threaten the West, and the West is still writing and will be writing the rules of the games for many more years.
I agree with Steinfeld’s conclusion that at present the West is writing the rules of the game, and I have some of my own reasons to support that conclusion. I am as certain as Steinfeld in terms of who will be writing the rules in the future (in another twenty years).
To know the future, one first needs to know the history. Let’s take a look at what happened to Sino-Western relations since 1949 where we...