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Subtle style

Updated: 2013-07-16 15:05
By David Bartram ( China Daily)

 Subtle style

Timothy Beardson brings to light the daunting array of challenges that today confront China and calls for a more balanced view of China's future. Provided to China Daily

A writer who has been in China for 35 years attempts to offer a more nuanced view of where the country is heading. He shares his views with David Bartram.

Predicting China's future has become its own industry in recent years, but as publishers search for the next best-seller, a culture of sensationalism has developed with claims and counter-claims becoming more radical.

A glance at the China titles in your local bookstore might lead a casual observer to believe China is either on the brink of world domination or total collapse.

Timothy Beardson, who brings with him 35 years of experience working with China, believes he's the man to offer a more nuanced view of where the country is heading with his new book, Stumbling Giant: The Threats to China's Future.

"What rather annoys me are the histrionic titles you get in the China genre," Beardson says. "You get titles such as When China Rules the World or The Coming Collapse of China. I don't know how anyone can put their name to a title like that because it's just all nonsense."

Beardson was 27 when he moved to Hong Kong in 1978. With China beginning its process of opening up, he visited the mainland within a month upon arrival. By 1984 he had set up an investment bank, Crosby, which became the first international investment bank to open on the mainland.

Stumbling Giant was borne out of a lecture Beardson delivered on China's future at the Yale University in 2009, which the university's publishing arm asked him to develop into a book.

"Part of this book is really to say China has done fantastically for 30 years but we really need radical, early and deep reforms if we are going to keep the show on the road. It's really a call for policy development in China. It's some analysis, it's some advice and it's a call for action from a friend of China."

Although Beardson's expertise lies in finance, his book is ambitiously broad in its attempts to analyze the key challenges facing China over the coming decades. Chapters tackle everything from the environment, to education and demographics.

"I really felt this wasn't an economic story or a foreign affairs story or a business story. It's actually a multi-disciplinary analysis that needs to be made. I've even tried to look at things you wouldn't imagine, such as the role of the Chinese language on China's development.

"I've tried to raise different ways to move forward, as we all want China to be a success and I think it's good to debate and discuss the issues involved," he says.

One of Beardson's biggest concerns relates to demographics. With China's population due to begin declining by 2027, combined with rising life expectancy and a growing "silver population", China's economy will have to adapt to provide for elderly dependents.

Subtle style

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