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New Left Review 52, July-August 2008


Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing proposes a bold new political-economic patterning of China’s rise, America’s decline. Mark Elvin examines the assumptions behind narratives of divergent West and East, and the parameters that will define a reconfigured world order.

MARK ELVIN

THE HISTORIAN AS HARUSPEX

In the late 1980s, I was a member of a group called the Friends of Hong Kong. We were trying to see if there was any chance of negotiating a better deal for the territory as the date of its prospective return to China approached. By happenstance, I had a friend who had known Reagan during his time as governor of California, and my colleagues asked me to enquire through him whether there was any chance of the us being willing to apply pressure to help in this effort. The contact worked, and the answer was unequivocal: there was no chance at all, as doing so would risk damaging American business interests in China.

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