Friday, January 21, 2011

5 essential books that explain the myths & facts about China

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom is a Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, and a co-founder of The China Beat blog. His books include Global Shanghai, China's Brave New World, and Twentieth-Century China.

His latest book is China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know.

For The Daily Beast, Wasserstrom came up with five essential books that will explain the myths and facts about China, including:
Richard McGregor’s The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers. Published last June, this is the newest book on my list. Its author is a former Financial Times Beijing bureau chief who has just relocated to Washington, D.C.


Its argument that the events of 1989-1991 (the Berlin Wall tumbling, the Soviet Union imploding) may have strengthened rather than weakened the position of the Chinese Communist Party. The fall of communist leaders in other parts of the world provided those in Beijing with a very special diagnostic opportunity—a chance to figure out (with the help of official think tanks that worked overtime on the subject) why their counterparts in other settings had lost control, so they could avoid making the same mistake. What emerged was a focus on raising living standards, efforts to co-opt entrepreneurs and members of the newly emerging middle class, and find new ways to stir up and guide popular nationalism that has proved, so far, a very effective strategy.


One of the most informative chapters is on connections between the party and the military, a subject that made headlines while Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Beijing last week.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Wasserstrom's list of five good short books on China.

--Marshal Zeringue