Mann, James 1946- (Jim Mann)
Mann, James 1946- (Jim Mann)
Born 1946. Education: Harvard College, B.A.; Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, Supreme Court correspondent, 1978-83, chief of the Beijing bureau, 1984-87, diplomatic correspondent and foreign affairs columnist, 1988-c. 2001; Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), International Security Program, senior writer-in-residence, c. 2001-c. 2007; Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC, FPI author-in-residence, c. 2007—.
Council on Foreign Relations.
Edwin M. Hood Award for diplomatic reporting, 1993, 1999; Edward Weintal Prize for distinguished coverage of international affairs, 1999; New York Public Library (NYPL) Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, cowinner, and Asia-Pacific Prize for best book about Asia, both for About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China from Nixon to Clinton, 2000.
Beijing Jeep: The Short, Unhappy Romance of American Business in China, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1989, updated edition published as Beijing Jeep: A Case Study of Western Business in China, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1997.
About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China from Nixon to Clinton, Alfred Knopf (New York, NY), 1999.
Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, Viking (New York, NY), 2004.
The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain away Chinese Repression, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Los Angeles Times, Atlantic Monthly, New Republic, and Washington Post.
James Mann used his vast experience as a foreign correspondent with the Los Angeles Times to write three books on China. In Beijing Jeep: The Short, Unhappy Romance of American Business in China he examines American companies' rush, from the late 1970s through the 1980s, to capture a share of the largest potential market in the world. In Mann's view, this massive investment in China was a waste of money, because, as an Economist reviewer summarized, there remains an "unacknowledged absence of common values and shared goals" between the two countries. Investors were wooed with banquets and promises, but became disillusioned when the capital and management expertise they poured into Chinese companies did not yield profits. Mann's chief example is American Motors Corporation (AMC)'s joint venture with Beijing Automotive Works, launched in 1984. While AMC hoped the venture would make its Cherokee jeep more competitive with Japanese models, China hoped the project would result in cheap jeeps for the People's Liberation Army. In a 1997 update of the book, Mann adds a summary that identifies four recent trends in China's international business dealings: the increased prominence of Taiwan and South Korea in the global marketplace; the increased strength of pro-high growth forces in China; increased access to imports for Chinese consumers; and a resolution of difficulties in companies obtaining foreign exchange. "In other respects," wrote Gordon Bennett in a Perspectives on Political Science review, "things remain much the same."
New Leader contributor Jagdish Bhagwati called Beijing Jeep an example of "first-rate journalism," praising the book's penetrating interviews, "relentless pursuit of detail," and emphasis on suspenseful plot. Yet Bhagwati added that Mann does not provide sufficient context to enable readers to "distinguish between experiences specific to the company called Beijing Jeep and lessons of more general validity." Nevertheless, the critic deemed the book an important study, concluding that "future investors in China should read Mann, not necessarily to change their course and invest elsewhere, but rather so that they will navigate carefully when they enter Chinese waters."
In About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China from Nixon to Clinton, based on interviews with many top U.S. government officials as well newly uncovered government documents, Mann presents insights into the contradictions that typified the relationship between these two countries over three and a half decades. In the early 1970s, the U.S. government was on good terms with China, partly—according to Mann—in an effort to undermine the communist Soviet Union. But America's policy toward China changed drastically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, following the blatant human rights violations that surrounded the Tiananmen Square massacre and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Steven Mufson, writing in the World Policy Journal, noted one "unavoidable" shortcoming in his review of About Face: the author's "lack of access to Chinese policy makers and archives," resulting in a primarily American viewpoint. However, he concluded that the book will help "provide enough material to fuel informed debate over U.S. policy in the foreseeable future." Peggy Spitzer Christoff wrote in Library Journal that Mann exposes the enormous and ever-increasing role of business in "separating human rights issues from the U.S. competitive advantage in world markets." In a special for the Washington Post, Ross H. Munro called About Face "a simultaneously absorbing and troubling account" that shows "how ineptly both Republican and Democratic administrations, right up to the present, have managed our ties with the world's most populous nation."
Mann's 2004 book, Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, examines the views and careers of President George W. Bush's six foreign policy advisors: Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Mann calls them the "military generation"; they call themselves "Vulcans," after the Roman god of fire. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the Vulcans adhere to three primary doctrines: "the embrace of preemptive action, the no- tion of an ‘unchallengeable American superpower,’ and the systematic export of America's democratic values." In a review of Rise of the Vulcans for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Repps Hudson wrote that Mann "does not write with that gotcha flair that corrupts some accounts by journalists. The rarest of creatures, he's neither a Bush hater nor a Bush lover; he's a responsible journalist who goes where his research and interviews take him."
In his book, Mann characterizes the Vulcans' rise as "an epochal change, the flowering of a new view of America's status and role in the world," and the arrival of "a United States whose military power was so awesome that it no longer needed to make compromises or accommodations (unless it chose to do so) with any nation or groups of countries." Many critics noted that Rise of the Vulcans does a good job of explaining America's military stance in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Margaret Flanagan commented in Booklist that "Mann provides an illuminating glimpse into the inner workings of the [2000-2004] Bush administration."
Mann returns to the theme of China in The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain away Chinese Repression. As he explained in an interview with Sophie Beach for China Digital Times, he had grown "increasingly saddened" that, over the course of many decades, public discourse in the United States about China continues to reflect assumptions he considers outdated and inaccurate. For Mann, China's most likely future course is to continue modernizing and developing economically, without changing its repressive one-party political system. Yet American political and business leaders continue to talk about China in terms of what Mann calls either "the Soothing Scenario," in which China is seen as progressing inevitably toward democracy; or "the Upheaval Scenario," in which China is seen as destined for economic or political collapse under its authoritarian one-party system. Such thinking, in Mann's view, deflects attention away from China's real problems and suggests that American politicians and businesses are willing to overlook human rights abuses in order to continue doing business in China. Jay Nordlinger of the National Review quoted Mann as stating: "The proclivity of American elites to refrain from public criticism of China's repressive system is reinforced all the more by the influence of money…. There are huge and growing financial incentives for prominent Americans to support the status quo in China."
Reviewing The China Fantasy in Washington Post Book World, Margaret MacMillan observed that "Mann comes close to seeing a conspiracy by well-meaning but self-serving American elites … to keep the United States investing in and trading with China," but she acknowledged that the book "raises an awkward and important question" about China's possible future. Spectator contributor Jonathan Mirsky, on the other hand, offered unqualified praise, deeming The China Fantasy "one of the clearest and most searching critiques of those who have unhooked their brains and hearts when it comes to the suffering of hundreds of millions of Chinese in order to suck up to Beijing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Asian Affairs, winter, 1998, Rebecca Matthews, review of Beijing Jeep: A Case Study of Western Business in China, p. 245.
Booklist, January 1, 1999, Mary Carroll, review of About Face: A History of America's Curious Relationship with China from Nixon to Clinton, p. 806; February 15, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, p. 1008.
Book World, March 4, 2007, "The China Syndrome: Are U.S. Elites Misleading the Public to Boost Trade with a Nasty Regime?," p. 4.
Business Week, March 1, 1999, review of About Face, p. 17.
China Business Review, May 1, 1990, Martin Weil, review of Beijing Jeep: The Short, Unhappy Romance of American Business in China, p. 48.
China Review International, fall, 2001, Oliver M. Lee, review of About Face, p. 541.
Christian Science Monitor, March 1, 1990, William A. Babcock, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 12.
Economist, May 22, 1999, review of About Face, p. 95; January 13, 1990, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 83.
Far Eastern Economic Review, March 15, 1990, Thomas Lynch, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 36; May, 2007, Hugo Restall, review of The China Fantasy: How Our Leaders Explain away Chinese Repression, p. 62.
Financial Times, December 25, 1989, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 39.
Journal of Economic Literature, December 1, 1997, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 2134.
Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, fall, 1990, review of Beijing Jeep.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Rise of the Vulcans, p. 73.
Library Journal, November 15, 1989, David D. Buck, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 94; March 15, 1990, Susan S. DiMattia, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 44; January, 1999, Peggy Spitzer Christoff, review of About Face, p. 129; June 1, 2000, Lynn Blumenstein, "Two Authors Share NYPL Book Award," p. 22; February 15, 2004, Robert F. Nardini, review of Rise of the Vulcans, p. 144.
Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1999, "Times Reporters Win National Awards," p. 20; March 7, 2004, Jacob Heilbrunn, review of Rise of the Vulcans.
Maclean's, May 7, 2007, Michael Petrou, "We Can't Make Nice: Why Not Standing up to China Is a Very Dangerous Game," p. 28.
Metalworking News, April 2, 1990, Andrew Collier, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 29.
Nation, May 10, 2004, Stephen Holmes, review of Rise of the Vulcans, p. 25; June 25, 2007, "Chinese Mirrors," p. 25.
National Review, April 2, 2007, "China Dreamin'," p. 45.
New Leader, December 11, 1989, Jagdish Bhagwati, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 8.
New York Times Book Review, November 19, 1989, Gordon Williams, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 13; March 14, 2004, David Greenberg, review of Rise of the Vulcans, p. 8.
Orbis, spring, 1990, review of Beijing Jeep.
Parameters, autumn, 2004, Richard Halloran, review of Rise of the Vulcans, p. 146.
Perspectives on Political Science, summer, 1998, Gordon Bennett, review of Beijing Jeep.
Publishers Weekly, October 27, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 54; January 19, 2004, review of Rise of the Vulcans, p. 63.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 2004, Repps Hudson, review of Rise of the Vulcans, section E, p. 3.
Spectator, March 10, 2007, Jonathan Mirsky, "Wilful Wishful Thinking."
Talk of the Nation, January 5, 2006, "Analysis: Putting the Bush Presidency into Historic Perspective."
Time International, May 7, 2007, "Chinese Puzzle," p. 66.
Wall Street Journal Western Edition, December 21, 1989, Thomas N. Thompson, review of Beijing Jeep, p. 16; March 10, 2004, Daniel Casse, review of Rise of the Vulcans, section D, p. 8.
Washington Post, February 21, 1999, Ross H. Munro, review of About Face, p. 4; March 14, 2004, Alan Brinkley, review of Rise of the Vulcans, section T, p. 7.
Washington Post Book World, March 4, 2007, Margaret MacMillan "The China Syndrome: Are U.S. Elites Misleading the Public to Boost Trade with a Nasty Regime?," p. 4.
Weekly Standard, May 28, 2007, "Unsoothing Scenario; Free Markets Are Not Leading to Freedom in China."
World Policy Journal, winter, 1999, Steven Mufson, review of About Face, p. 97; spring, 2007, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, review of The China Fantasy, p. 97.
Center for Strategic and International Studies Web site,http://www.csis.org/ (October 7, 2004), short biography.
Digital Times,http://chinadigitaltimes.net/ (February 12, 2008), Sophie Beach, interview with James Mann.
Los Angeles World Affairs Council Web site,http://www.lawac.org/ (February 4, 1999), James Mann, "America's Curious Relationship with China," speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on February 4, 1999.
Talk of the Nation,http://www.npr.org/ (February 12, 2008), "Analysis: Putting the Bush Presidency into Historic Perspective."