THIS IS THE MOST ANNOYING BOOK I HAVE EVER READ!
The standard of argumentation in it is a joke. Britain was apparently economically advantaged by being resource poor, apart from coal. The Chinese can ship vast quantities of goods around China and dig great canals to do this and moved millions of people to colonise the frontiers where the coal is, but they couldn’t bring the coal back to the Chinese heartland. Jacques lists all the things which held China back; it’s lack of free enquiry which held back technological progress, government meddling which stopped it exploring the world and trading effectively, he’s argued that the modern communist government is really not much different from the old imperial government and he’s going to argue that whereas this held back China in the past it’s going to work out for China in the future.
What he misses about the rapid modernisations of Japan and China is that modernisation is really easy when there is a technologically advanced civilisation that you can buy modern technology and education from. He writes the section on Japan and he acknowledges that Japan bought in technology and western experts, but it’s almost as if he doesn’t understand that the global driving force here isn’t the Japanese who are buying technology, it’s the westerners who are producing the technology, all throughout the chapters on the west he almost totally ignores the technological aspect. Most interestingly he only briefly talks about free enquiry in the west and the relationship between free enquiry and scientific progress, literally a paragraph at most. Being a Marxist Jacques doesn’t understand that a country can have a large and largely free market but if the government stops it’s people thinking and enforces a state ideology like Confucianism then there will be no innovation and standards of living will not rise. Then, even if the country does have the worlds largest market, they’ll still be worse off than smaller, more technologically progressive states.