China in the 21st Century, What Everyone Needs to Know

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Oxford Univ. Press, 2010

Reviewed by Graham Mulligan

Part 1            Historical Legacies

  1. Schools of Thought
  2. Imperial China
  3. Revolutions and Revolutionaries

Part 2 The Present and the Future

  1. From Mao to Now
  2. U.S.-China Misunderstandings
  3. The Future

This is a short  book, 135 pages, with brief sections titled ‘Who was Confucious?’, ‘Why did the Qing dynasty fall?’ and ‘Is China likely to become a democracy?’ and so on. It’s a stretch to think that big questions and big topics can be covered in 150 word entries, but for the busy traveler something like an Executive Summary will give him/her a quick entry into knowing something about China. You won’t gain any deep insights into China with this book, and you may get more out of the travelers essay at the back of the Lonely Planet because it at least has maps and pictures that help you find stuff. But it is handy and would make a good read on the plane going over to China.

Professor Wasserstrom teaches at U of Cal, Irvine and is the co-founder of ‘China Beat: How the East is Read’, a blog that is full of much more in-depth writing from a variety of predominantly American journalists. The blog tracks trends in what is going on in China and how China is being written about.

Further Reading at the back of the book points to a wide selection of books that will take you a long time to get through.

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