Pardon the self-promotion (though aren't blogs a form of self-promotion anyway?), but I wanted to let folks know about a new book I edited that just hit store shelves -- Beyond the Middle Kingdom: Comparative Perspectives on China's Capitalist Transformation (Stanford University Press).
The book makes the straightforward point that one of the best ways to better understand China is to compare it with other countries. Many of us tend to think of China as unique and distinctive, but that's usually the result of either not comparing China with other places or only comparing it with the United States. It turns out that in many cases, it is America that is the oddball, not China. The chapters examine a wide range of issue areas, including the auto sector, industrial policy writ large, international trade, social policy, business lobbying, the political views and behavior of private entrepreneurs, and the politics of international bank acquisitions. The other contributors are Margaret Pearson (U Maryland), Andrew Wedeman (U Nebraska), Arthur Kroeber (Dragonomics), Mark Frazier (U Oklahoma), Kellee Tsai (Johns Hopkins U), Victor Shih (Northwestern U), and Greg Kasza (Indiana U).
By the way, the cover photo is a collection of flags on display at the Shanghai World Expo (aka the world's fair), held in Shanghai, China last year. And the "Middle Kingdom" is a term non-Chinese people sometimes use as a synonym for China when they want to highlight the country's supposed distinctiveness. Middle Kingdom is thought to be a direct translation of the Chinese word for China, zhong-guo, 中国, to suggest that Chinese people see themselves at the center of the universe and are not members of a sovereign state but rather a broad civilization. In reality, the term zhong-guo is most accurately translated as "central states," plural, to refer to the various small kingdoms that existed during the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.) in part of the area that later was unified into a single country. But no one called China the country zhong-guo until much, much later, and it contains no implicit idea of uniqueness in the way that non-Chinese use term "middle kingdom."