Books By The Book literature Singapore

By The Book: ChinaPhobia – A Wasted Opportunity by Karim Alwadi and Mohammad Kheir Alwadi

A lecture in book form by father-son experts in Sino relations.

Dr Karim Alwadi is an entrepreneur and political scientist based in Beijing. His father, Dr Mohammed Kheir Alwadi, is an acclaimed journalist and former ambassador from Syria to China. Together, the two men’s shared knowledge and experiences span enough material to co-author a book, something they’ve done over the last three years, resulting in ChinaPhobia: A Wasted Opportunity.

Published by Penguin, ChinaPhobia is an informative book that combines both Karim Alwadi and Mohammed Kheir Alwadi’s experiences in economics and politics respectively, and use them to formulate a thorough and unbiased history and analysis of China’s place in the world. In particular, both men zoom in on the phenomenon they’ve dubbed ‘ChinaPhobia’, or the global backlash China has faced since rising to power.

Written in the form of a conversation between the two men, ChinaPhobia reads like a lecture, and one can practically imagine sitting in an auditorium watching the two men share their insights and experiences over the years. The book itself is split across four main sections: The Growth of ChinaPhobia, which charts the rise of Sinocentrism; Means of Hostility Towards China, which sees how ChinaPhobia leads to aggressive and antagonistic global policy shifts from trade wars to the arms race; China’s Ambition for Global Leadership, which uses the perspectives of think tanks and experts to analyse their actual goals; and finally, ends with Urgent Questions, which considers the potential long term, damaging effects of ChinaPhobia to global peace, economic growth and stability.

For most of ChinaPhobia, both authors take a guarded, objective approach towards their topic, sticking almost entirely to facts and research. This is a treasure trove of information that makes for thorough but easily digestible explanations of the entire phenomenon, understanding everything from the philosophy behind Chinese thinking, to sharp takes on a history of being burned by foreign relations has led to increased protectionism and separation from the rest of the world. There is logic to their breakdown of why China decided it no longer was satisfied being the world’s factory, and finally took things into their own hands to channel soft power into hard in a demand to be taken seriously.

And in a Western-centric world we’ve lived in so long, any country that competes with American dominance naturally is seen as a threat, one that activates the alarm bells on USA, who corrals and rallies their allies to demonise and fear China. In many ways, this ends up a self-fulfilling prophecy, where increased anti-Chinese policies only serve to enrage China even more, unable to actually destroy them on account of how much power they already have. With both forces pushing and bumping against each other, tensions seem only set to rise in years to come, with hostility reaching a fever pitch before finally bursting.

And it is with these ideas in mind that ChinaPhobia creates a wasted opportunity – that rather than seeing China’s rise as a chance to work together and capitalise on good relations, the fight for dominance instead creates fierce competition, priding it over peace and coexistence. As lines and alliances are drawn, and the world becomes further divided, both men finally relent and show their grief over the situation, their disappointment at the lack of transparency on all fronts, and the overall lack of mistrust. By the time we reach the conclusion, it seems there is little chance that we will end this in a detente, as they raise horrific visions of rivers of blood and endless cruelties. To this end, it is all they can do to remind us of our own humanity with a quote from Carl Sagan’s A Pale Blue Dot, that it is with kindness rather than conflict that we should move forward, lest the selfish power lust of world leaders completely destroy the only home we’ve ever known, amidst this cold lonely universe.

ChinaPhobia: A Wasted Opportunity is published by Penguin. More information available here

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