A few longer descriptive pieces would have covered the same information more succinctly. That would have resulted in a great reduction of blank spaces, introductory expressions and book size, consequently, especially in the first half. The information is nonetheless easier to access as all the questions are in the Table of Contents. As is often the case respectable nonfiction, this is also quite long and often politically correct, making a minimum of information into equivocal, overly-simplistic verbal shrubbery and the occasional lukewarm joke. There are some interesting points which are totally out of my mind. I will recommend it to all Chinese people who would like to talk about this topic with his western friends.
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January 1, Originally published by H-Asia, reprinted with permission. Jeffrey N. New York Oxford University Press, Wasserstrom has written a deceptively simple book of twentieth-century Chinese history.
It examines over one hundred years of Chinese history and the Chinese present from a multiplicity of facets in six chapters packed with sections. It can also be a useful book for historians who are not specialists in Chinese history but who need a quick guide for teaching Chinese history in a world history class.
Wasserstrom tries to strike a balance between the uniqueness and the universalism of Chinese history in the context of world histories. He also seeks to understand China by not reducing it to its history and stereotypes, but by recognizing its nuanced and complex situation.
Wasserstrom treats Confucian learning as tradition undergoing transformation and adapted to modern times. This chapter also includes four sections on how to properly assess Mao and how Mao is perceived by the government and people in China. Changes brought about in modern Chinese history as well as continuity with the past, in other words, must be recognized and acknowledged.
Part 2, "The Present and the Future," is an assessment of China today and predictions of China tomorrow. Here Wasserstrom provides insight gained from a combination of extensive scholarship and firsthand knowledge. Chapter 4, "From Mao to Now," depicts a current China that is at once authoritarian but also more open than before, especially after the fall of other Communist states. At that time, to avoid similar extinction, the Communist Chinese government began gradual changes that have continued despite its crackdown on democratic movements in the s, the verdict on which the state still has no consensus even today.
He presents a nuanced discussion of the complexity of understanding Chinese politics, explaining the difficulty of simply dividing the Chinese population into political dissidents and political loyalists as well as the effects that the Internet has had on politics in China. More specifically, he shows that knowledge of high technology has widened the chasm in China between those who have access to free information by dodging Internet censorship and those who do not.
He uses a similar comparative framework to discuss how to situate China in the world of nations, and how China has dealt with tensions along ideological lines, interethnic issues, and state policies.
China, he indicates, is a more diverse country than meets the eye. The author also notes that the lack of political freedom and freedom of the press in China leads to different Chinese views of America and different views on many other things, including Tibet. For each question, Wasserstrom usually provides a comparative and insightful answer, and he refrains from a predisposed position while using a multitude of examples to illustrate his points. Regarding how China and the United States should view each other if they are both superpowers, Wasserstrom demonstrates with insightful examples that China and America share more similarities than many Chinese or Americans realize.
To gain a better understanding of China, he notes, one needs to come up with new approaches to view China.
Wasserstrom, China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2010
China in the 21st Century : What Everyone Needs to Know (R)