What challenges confront twenty-first-century China, and how might their resolution influence the country’s (and indeed the world’s) trajectory? The Spring 2014 issue of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, considers China’s problems as the growing pains of a still developing country, not necessarily as the death pangs of a Communist state doomed to imminent extinction. Through exploration of the complex domestic issues facing contemporary China, the contributors to the issue form a nuanced vision of the rapidly changing country, drawing global lessons from both its failures and accomplishments.
In guest editor Elizabeth J. Perry's introduction to the issue, she notes that through three decades of “reform and opening,” China has transformed from one of the globe’s most impoverished countries to owner of the world’s second largest economy. But China now faces the consequences of this growth and the policies that spurred it, including environmental devastation, health and income inequality, a declining workforce, and widespread grassroots protest that bespeaks the tension between an authoritarian state and its market economy.