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Summary

The Chinese economy appears destined for failure, the financial bubble forever in peril of popping, the real estate sector doomed to collapse, the factories fated for bankruptcy.

Banks drowning in bad loans. An urban landscape littered with ghost towns of empty property. Industrial zones stalked by zombie firms. Trade tariffs blocking the path to global markets. And yet, against the odds and against expectations, growth continues, wealth rises, international influence expands. The coming collapse of China is always coming, never arriving.

Thomas Orlik, a veteran of more than a decade in Beijing, turns the spotlight on China's fragile fundamentals and resources for resilience. Drawing on discussions with communist cadres, shadow bankers, and migrant workers, Orlik pieces together a unique perspective on China's past, present, and possible futures.

Mapping possible scenarios, Orlik games out what will happen if the bubble that never pops finally does. The magnitude of the shock to China and the world would be tremendous. For those in the West nervously watching China's rise as a geopolitical challenger, the alternative could be even less palatable.

©2020 Oxford University Press (P)2021 Tantor

What listeners say about China

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Rubbish first page, otherwise excellent.

Besides the scaremongering about Chinese government debt, which is ridiculous since a government can't run out of the currency it prints, this is an excellent book about the Chinese banking system.

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Profile Image for Sean Tabor
  • Sean Tabor
  • 22-07-21

Enjoyably frustrating

The material is great and an illuminating look into the China situation that no one has bothered to give it seems. The performance was rough. For sure has a voice for audiobooks but no one bothered giving the reader any training on how to pronounce any of the Chinese words. Forget about the names of state officials being butchered every time yuan came up in the text and the VO had to read it I cringed and it being a book about China's economy of course its currency is going to come up a lot and you are going to be beat over the back of the head with the cringe of it being mispronounced over and over again. Surely they have a director for these things or an editor. No one bothered to fix that and left the narrator hanging like that or didn't bother to go "lets do that take again." Great book just bad audio book.

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  • Matt S
  • 02-06-21

Good book, subpar narration

Lots of insights into Chinese economics and comes across as candid and unbiased. However I did not enjoy the narrator, who read every sentence in the tone of someone who was reading a newspaper headline. What was really intolerable was his seemingly arbitrary choices for pronouncing Chinese names like "Chongqing" and "Xi Jinping" (which he pronounced "Si Jinping").

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Profile Image for Richard Sweeny
  • Richard Sweeny
  • 14-05-21

Sadly Disappointed

First of all, whoever came up with the title is a GENIUS, (at least at tittles). China IS the bubble that never pops, (so far).

This book is packed with detailed facts that can be useful as background information. I did not realize how many dynamic ups and downs the Chinese economy had. That was reasonably useful. There were some detailed stories describing the ins and outs of the Chinese growth path.

But here’s the problem, what insights did I get from the book? It ends with the brilliant insight that, “with an economy the size of China’s, it’s never too late”. REALLY?!!!! That’s your powerful ending??

REALLY?!!!!

Why is there so much empty, vapid literature out there today?!!

The author spent how long writing this book? 1, 2, 3 years? And what did he come up with? One long, endless string of names, dates and events.

There was no arch of history in this book, no emerging understanding of how and why China is where it is, no clear conclusion of where the superpower competition may go.

I could have gotten 85% of this information reading Business Week. I did already know 95% of the Broad Strokes by watching CNBC, Bloomberg and YouTube videos from Joesph Stiglitz, Ray Dalio and Steven Kotkin. (By the way, I just started reading my subscription to Business Week. OMG!! So, many one-inch deep articles! I didn’t realize. No deep thought there either. I’ll read a couple more issues and probably cancelled THAT subscription.)

I HAD to read, (listen to), this book, because of the Brilliant title. Sadly, the “book” itself LITERALLY could have been created by copying from detailed dispatches of the previous mentioned mainstream sources plus NY Times and South China Morning Post stories.

Missed opportunity.

There’s a guy named Dan Carlin who creates a podcast called Hard-Core History. His four 2-hour plus episodes on Rome’s Punic Wars where they eventually obliterated their nemesis Carthage were Fascinating!

Instead of the the endless event, date, name, monotone that history books in American schools use, he took a Cecil B. DeMille approach that described the epic battles of Hannibal, Fabius Maximus the Delayer and Scipio Africanus as the Epic, Life Shattering struggles they were! And while it was short of the excessive facts and figures of this book, I clearly remember all of the characters, the intense Battle of Lake Trasimene and the deeply Horrifying description of at the Battle of Cannae. (Von Clausewitz called Total Encirclement impossible, which is difficult to reconcile with the fact that Hannibal actually did it)

I LEARNED from those stories. I can talk about them like I was THERE, the way I can talk about the battles between Microsoft and Apple and the Open Source Community and how Cisco wiped out the telecom manufacturers in the 80’s and 90’s because I WAS there, in business, at that time.

I got none of that insight from this book. I got no context to allow me to visualize and understand the Chinese-American-World interplay.

Instead, I got an endless stream of facts and figures that gave me maybe 20% of the insight I was looking for. I have already forgotten most of the facts and figures that this book vomited onto the table in front of me.

The most dynamic growth story since the rise of the American superpower at Bretton Woods and the drama, insight and excitement was all drained away from the story.

Another major complaint: I had to constantly rewind. The author jumped from city to city and timeframe to timeframe. One minute he’s was in 2017, the next in 2011 and because I was really trying to get something out of this, I was constantly saying, “Wait what year is this? Are you referring to the 2008 financial meltdown in the US or the Asian meltdown down un the 90’s, (was it the 90’s? I can’t remember). I had to work very hard to stay with the plot line.

At least it’s over. Except for the fact that I felt compelled to waste another 60+ minutes writing this review, when I should have been working out!!

If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have wasted my time reading this book. I would have stayed focused on the truly Great and useful book I’m also reading, “Guns, Germs, and Steel”.

Sadly, if you pay any attention to the news in China, this is not a book worth reading.

P.S. The reader has a fantastic voice. But while it was deep and authoritative, it tended to follow the endless monotone of the text. I found it very relaxing to fall asleep to.

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  • nwaite
  • 28-04-21

Orlik should be ashamed of himself

Tom Orlik has provided a very valuable recount and analysis of his time covering China. Unfortunately he has left the audio book to a reader who does his best to mispronounce every Chinese name and term mentioned. This is a book about China, so that's a lot of butchering. Unforgivable.

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  • Philo
  • 24-04-21

Illuminating, all through

There is a great mix of economics, finance, and pertinent history here. I feel for the first time I have a grasp of the current overall picture of what China faces (though lacking in Belt and Road particulars, and latest updates including post-COVID scene). I found the narration excellent, and had no trouble ignoring the occasional mispronunciations (particularly, of "Xi"). Both USA and China have plenty of potentially troubling plates spinning!

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  • SEAN TRAINOR
  • 02-04-21

Well researched and argued

Strong analysis. A bit outdated, needs an update chapter covering the effects of Corna and the annexation of Hong Kong.

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  • Lonnie G. Hardy, Jr.
  • 29-03-21

Incorrect pronunciations

The narrator didn’t bother to learn the correct pronunciation of Xi. Pronounced it “see”. Instead of the correct “shed”

Very distracting