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Charting China's changes

Updated: 2018-08-03 08:17:43

( China Daily )

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British author and consultant Hugh Peyman's book, China's Change: The Greatest Show on Earth, examines the country's economic miracle. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

"The idea for the book actually started with a friend of mine asking me five years ago why China was able to do all this. There is a view that it just gets things done, that the political system is decisive unlike, say, that of the United Kingdom, currently. I take the view, however, that it is much more complicated than that," he says.

Peyman, a tall bear of a man in his late 60s, believes China's ability to manage change is one of its "X-factors" and he draws from the ideas of the 2,000-year-old text I Ching (Book of Changes).

"China has fallen and emerged again at least three times in its history, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and then the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is only really since 1820 that China hasn't been the leading economy in the world," he says.

Arguably China's biggest revival has been since Deng Xiaoping's reform and opening-up, the 40th anniversary of which is being marked this year.

Peyman says China had reached a point after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), where it had to change.

He points out that, according to the British economic historian Angus Maddison, China had plunged from being the world's biggest economy in 1800 to become 64th out of the 65 countries then measured by 1913. By 1975, it was ranked as the 65th.

"It got to the point where the whole economic system was completely bankrupt and that was the major turning point. This was essentially the leadership's view at the time," he says.

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