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The need to understand this global giant has never been more pressing: China is constantly in the news, yet conflicting impressions abound. Within one generation, China has transformed from an impoverished, repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse. In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jeffrey Wasserstrom provides cogent answers to th The need to understand this global giant has never been more pressing: China is constantly in the news, yet conflicting impressions abound. Within one generation, China has transformed from an impoverished, repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse. In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jeffrey Wasserstrom provides cogent answers to the most urgent questions regarding the newest superpower and offers a framework for understanding its meteoric rise. Focusing his answers through the historical legacies--Western and Japanese imperialism, the Mao era, and the massacre near Tiananmen Square--that largely define China's present-day trajectory, Wasserstrom introduces readers to the Chinese Communist Party, the building boom in Shanghai, and the environmental fall-out of rapid Chinese industrialization. He also explains unique aspects of Chinese culture such as the one-child policy, and provides insight into how Chinese view Americans. Wasserstrom reveals that China today shares many traits with other industrialized nations during their periods of development, in particular the United States during its rapid industrialization in the 19th century. Finally, he provides guidance on the ways we can expect China to act in the future vis-a-vis the United States, Russia, India, and its East Asian neighbors."


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The need to understand this global giant has never been more pressing: China is constantly in the news, yet conflicting impressions abound. Within one generation, China has transformed from an impoverished, repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse. In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jeffrey Wasserstrom provides cogent answers to th The need to understand this global giant has never been more pressing: China is constantly in the news, yet conflicting impressions abound. Within one generation, China has transformed from an impoverished, repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse. In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jeffrey Wasserstrom provides cogent answers to the most urgent questions regarding the newest superpower and offers a framework for understanding its meteoric rise. Focusing his answers through the historical legacies--Western and Japanese imperialism, the Mao era, and the massacre near Tiananmen Square--that largely define China's present-day trajectory, Wasserstrom introduces readers to the Chinese Communist Party, the building boom in Shanghai, and the environmental fall-out of rapid Chinese industrialization. He also explains unique aspects of Chinese culture such as the one-child policy, and provides insight into how Chinese view Americans. Wasserstrom reveals that China today shares many traits with other industrialized nations during their periods of development, in particular the United States during its rapid industrialization in the 19th century. Finally, he provides guidance on the ways we can expect China to act in the future vis-a-vis the United States, Russia, India, and its East Asian neighbors."

30 review for China in the 21st Century

  1. 4 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    you can learn how china now is doing by looking at those hot-blooded young patriotic idiots and blood-bonemarrow-sucking old commie motherfuckers above and below on the cover of this book

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Samael

    This book is an excellent primer on modern China - but when I say "primer", I don't mean to imply that that it is simply a "noddy" guide. On the contrary, the author has a real talent for making some quite subtle and sophisticated points in a very striking but concise manner. To take just one example: when talking about China's approach to governance, he notes that there is a tendency in the West to seize on the authoritarian aspects, leading people to think of China in terms of George Orwell's This book is an excellent primer on modern China - but when I say "primer", I don't mean to imply that that it is simply a "noddy" guide. On the contrary, the author has a real talent for making some quite subtle and sophisticated points in a very striking but concise manner. To take just one example: when talking about China's approach to governance, he notes that there is a tendency in the West to seize on the authoritarian aspects, leading people to think of China in terms of George Orwell's "1984", with its depiction of "the boot in the face"-style totalitarianism. But whilst the author acknowledges that there are certainly elements of that in the post-Mao era (not least the Tiananmen Square massacre), he suggests that overall, Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" may offer a better analogy, with its focus on catering to the needs of the masses with a view to ensuring that they aren't inclined to bother their heads about things like democracy. Consider, for instance, how China's government has quite deliberately focussed on the kind of economic reform that the old Soviet Union never managed and which probably led to its collapse (because its particular brand of "boot in the face" style totalitarianism was accompanied by an economic system which could only turn out millions of left-footed boots). There are some slightly sniffy comments in some of the other reviews here about how this book is not particularly detailed and uses an FAQ style to break up the content into more manageable chunks. And if you are the kind of person that is impressed by length, this clearly isn't going to be the book for you - go read Martin Jacques' thumping great muddle-headed tome about China instead. If, on the other hand, you want to read a book that will make you look at China differently and which frequently acknowledges that there are two or more possible views about any one issue, then I can't recommend this book highly enough. For me, its brevity was an asset, not a liability.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Su Xu

    This is a great book for Chinese people to know how American think about China. 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mina

    An overview of recent history through a socioeconomic and politic perspective, but for a more varied range of subjects, try ''China A to Z: Everything You Need to Know to Understand Chinese Customs and Culture''. The book is structured in the question/answer pattern, meaning many a short introduction for many a short answer. 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 expressi An overview of recent history through a socioeconomic and politic perspective, but for a more varied range of subjects, try ''China A to Z: Everything You Need to Know to Understand Chinese Customs and Culture''. The book is structured in the question/answer pattern, meaning many a short introduction for many a short answer. 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. I'd also rather it stop referencing the Olympic Games every other example, ditch the shoddy prose and stop answering the question with its positive or negative statement form. 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Nierenhausen

    This was a super informative book. China has always been a cultural mystery to me, but Wasserstrom illuminates a number of issues impacting Chinese culture that I would not have considered. The drive from rural to urban has been achieved at an accelerated pace over the last 20 years which has led to an older generation familiar with rice farms, bicycle transit, and Mao, while the younger generations are familiar with the internet, mega-cities, ride sharing, and the central planning/capitalist hy This was a super informative book. China has always been a cultural mystery to me, but Wasserstrom illuminates a number of issues impacting Chinese culture that I would not have considered. The drive from rural to urban has been achieved at an accelerated pace over the last 20 years which has led to an older generation familiar with rice farms, bicycle transit, and Mao, while the younger generations are familiar with the internet, mega-cities, ride sharing, and the central planning/capitalist hybrid economy under Jinping. The title of this book is somewhat misleading however, as nearly the first half of the book deal with a broad-strokes summary of Chinese history, from its ancient roots to the development of Nationalist and Communist parties in the 20th century. This book gives a good explanation of the current cultural moment in China, and helps to explain how China interacts with the Western world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryanofthenorth

    Concise survey that hits some of the highlights of Chinese history and culture from the Qin dynasty to Xi Jinping. well organized, great refresher.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Angel

    This was a very good introduction to the country of China. If you all you know about China is that they are Communists and big, then you really need to read this book. The author delivers on a big challenge: presenting a primer on Chinese history and culture that is accessible and concise. I think he achieves that pretty well. You get the key points of Chinese culture and history, and you will certainly feel like you learned something by the end of the book. The strength of the book lies in the This was a very good introduction to the country of China. If you all you know about China is that they are Communists and big, then you really need to read this book. The author delivers on a big challenge: presenting a primer on Chinese history and culture that is accessible and concise. I think he achieves that pretty well. You get the key points of Chinese culture and history, and you will certainly feel like you learned something by the end of the book. The strength of the book lies in the fact that the author clearly strives to be objective. The best part, for me at least, is when he goes over the similarities between the United States and China. He is basically showing readers that while the nations are different, they also have many things in common. This book is definitely a must-read if you want to learn more on this topic. And given China's ascendancy in the world, what we may hear in the news (truth or speculation), this book goes a long way to put things in context. Oxford so far is doing a good job in this series. The one on Cuba I read (which is reviewed here on GR too) is also excellent. These are books that as a librarian I would not hesitate to recommend to readers wanting to learn more on a topic.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I had to read this book for a reflection paper for a course on Pacific Asian History, and I was pleasantly surprised how informative and easy to understand this book was! The author goes into great detail but in few words -if that makes sense. Starts out with a historical overview, which helped me in other aspects of my college course, and was EASY to understand. Then goes into more current history and issues that China faces today. Very open minded, no 'bashing' of any nation, just plain facts I had to read this book for a reflection paper for a course on Pacific Asian History, and I was pleasantly surprised how informative and easy to understand this book was! The author goes into great detail but in few words -if that makes sense. Starts out with a historical overview, which helped me in other aspects of my college course, and was EASY to understand. Then goes into more current history and issues that China faces today. Very open minded, no 'bashing' of any nation, just plain facts and understanding of issues.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Billy

    A brief but useful book that will provide some insight into the hopes and fears of the current regime in China and the Chinese people. The first half focuses on the historical context; this is only partly successful in that it really doesn't inform the reader about the true historical sweep of the Chinese story. The book is better at clearing up misunderstandings that Americans have about what's happening in China now.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Randal Schmidt

    Not as informative as I'd hoped and despite the title, the book spends very little time discussing modern China. While I understand wanting to take a longer view of the history and cultural ideas that continue to influence China, the significant amount of pages devoted to ancient dynasties and ancient figures detracted from the book. And when the author finally does get around to discussing 21st century China, he seems to draw some kind of moral equivalency between the US and China that simply d Not as informative as I'd hoped and despite the title, the book spends very little time discussing modern China. While I understand wanting to take a longer view of the history and cultural ideas that continue to influence China, the significant amount of pages devoted to ancient dynasties and ancient figures detracted from the book. And when the author finally does get around to discussing 21st century China, he seems to draw some kind of moral equivalency between the US and China that simply does not exist. No matter what historical parallels you might draw between the industrialization experiences of late 19th century America and late 20th China, you cannot ignore the profound differences between a society founded upon limited government and the respect of human rights and a society trapped under totalitarian communist control. At best, Wasserstrom downplays the evil of the CCP; at worst, he misrepresents it. I agree with how he ends the book, essentially saying that the Chinese people and the American people have much in common and should be more receptive to each other. However, any relationship will always be flawed so long as the CCP holds power.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Aurel Lazar

    Despite the fact that I know next to nothing about the more intricate details of recent Chinese history, this book did a decent job of giving me a better appreciation for the complexity of last century or so of Chinese politics, economics, and sociology. I can't say I completely followed 100% of what was being discussed, as I felt that the book assumed a foreknowledge I did not possess - so this might not be the best book for someone like me who has no idea who half of the people being discussed Despite the fact that I know next to nothing about the more intricate details of recent Chinese history, this book did a decent job of giving me a better appreciation for the complexity of last century or so of Chinese politics, economics, and sociology. I can't say I completely followed 100% of what was being discussed, as I felt that the book assumed a foreknowledge I did not possess - so this might not be the best book for someone like me who has no idea who half of the people being discussed are. That said, in addition to historical elements, the book focuses heavily on present-day issues and upcoming projects/plans; the book also spends a decent amount of time focusing on Western misconceptions of Chinese society/autonomy/daily life, and a great amount of time on technological issues such as the "Great Firewall" and the development of the Greater Bay Area (Hong Kong/Macau/Shenzhen).

  12. 4 out of 5

    The Conch

    Chinese President Xi Jinping met Indian PM Narendra Modi in Chennai on Oct 11-12 for second informal summit. I was looking forward a brief introduction about China from ancient time till date. This book serves the purpose. It covers almost entire history of China, its civilization, politics, culture and people. The book can give a reader a picture about China's past, present intention and reality. Author covers: # Basic of Chinese philosophy 'Confucianism' and its relation with China's economic de Chinese President Xi Jinping met Indian PM Narendra Modi in Chennai on Oct 11-12 for second informal summit. I was looking forward a brief introduction about China from ancient time till date. This book serves the purpose. It covers almost entire history of China, its civilization, politics, culture and people. The book can give a reader a picture about China's past, present intention and reality. Author covers: # Basic of Chinese philosophy 'Confucianism' and its relation with China's economic development. # Sequence of major dynasties of China for e.g Qing and Han # Major revolutions like Opium War, Taiping uprising, Boxer rebellion, May 4th movement, Mao's great leap forward, hundred flowers campaign, cultural revolution and finally protest of Tiananmen square # How US and China view each other # Where is China going? Finally, author Jeffrey Wasserstrom presents an analysis of China which can help anyone to make her/himself aware about one of ancient civilization.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I think if you want a brief history of China this is a great book. I read this book for my Chinese literature class and I really enjoyed it. It is very different from any normal textbook and I would highly suggest this book for those who want to gain a new perspective on the global government and foreign relations. I also would recommend this book to those who wish to see a new perspective of history. This book does a pretty good job at showing you how the Chinese people feel about certain event I think if you want a brief history of China this is a great book. I read this book for my Chinese literature class and I really enjoyed it. It is very different from any normal textbook and I would highly suggest this book for those who want to gain a new perspective on the global government and foreign relations. I also would recommend this book to those who wish to see a new perspective of history. This book does a pretty good job at showing you how the Chinese people feel about certain events. As with all history, when it's told from only one perspective or viewpoint you can never understand it fully.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Wasserstrom offers a very concise overview of the key issues related to China from the US perspective. This book is well balanced and offers enough insight to be worthwhile for a general reader who follows current events in China. Considering that even policy makers and public commentators often express uninformed views of politics in China, there is certainly a wide audience for this book. However, this book offers little for those who do keep up with current events and would be looking for dee Wasserstrom offers a very concise overview of the key issues related to China from the US perspective. This book is well balanced and offers enough insight to be worthwhile for a general reader who follows current events in China. Considering that even policy makers and public commentators often express uninformed views of politics in China, there is certainly a wide audience for this book. However, this book offers little for those who do keep up with current events and would be looking for deeper insight.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Steimer

    Good introduction/Biased/Read with caution If you have never read anything about China after high school, I would recommend this book as a good introduction. The authors/editor have done an excellent job organizing this book so it is quite easy to learn about the Boxer Rebellion, The Long March, etc. However, the history presented by the authors adheres a little too closely to the CCP party line for my comfort.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael-Ann Cerniglia

    2.5 stars. A very basic primer that is written as Q &A. Information was factual and I learned some new things, though other parts felt condescending. It also waters down a lot of very nuanced topics, admittedly for the sake of clarity and succinctness. I would prefer a text that dives into one or two of these issues in more detail. 2.5 stars. A very basic primer that is written as Q &A. Information was factual and I learned some new things, though other parts felt condescending. It also waters down a lot of very nuanced topics, admittedly for the sake of clarity and succinctness. I would prefer a text that dives into one or two of these issues in more detail.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Panda

    For 135 pages, think he did a great job skimming and highlighting history and events most relevant to an American getting to know China in the 21st century. This was published in 2010 before the Shanghai World Fair. Was really curious what he would have to say about the current Hong Kong protests, and it turns out he has one coming out early 2020. Am looking forward to it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aja Baajour

    I am in love with this book, this book is the key guide to china`S history! But u need to a little of a knowledge background to understand the book. I am in love with this book, this book is the key guide to china`S history! But u need to a little of a knowledge background to understand the book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Josh Upadhyay

    I was intrigued because Chinese history wasn't something I had much exposure to. Pretty condensed. Admittedly I cherrypicked the parts I found most interesting, but an informative read overall.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nils

    An excellent primer for the key terms one needs to understand China today.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Excellent overview. Great book to learn a little bit about a variety of topics about China, from ancient history to current events.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Marble

    Interesting analysis of behavior and how we could get along better.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris Doherty

    This is a fantastic summary of Chinese History. I don't think there is a better more succinct quick read out there. I would love to see Prof. Wasserstrom updated version.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Jeffrey Wasserstrom writes accessible and interesting books about modern Chinese history and politics. This one is short, a bit American-oriented, but very useful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meihan Liu

    New perspective. A lovely book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Graham Mulligan

    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 4. From Mao to Now 5. U.S.-China Misunderstandings 6. 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 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 4. From Mao to Now 5. U.S.-China Misunderstandings 6. 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.

  27. 4 out of 5

    John Vanbrunt,

    U.S. and China similar in four ways: 1. Common industrial trajectories: China industrial development today strongly resembles the U.S. of the late 1800s and early 1900s. 2. Human rights: While Americans deride the PRC on its frequent violation of human rights, the U.S. remains one of the few countries which officially sanctions capital punishment. China too, for that matter. This, unlike the rest of the great powers. 3. Fiercely protecting oil stocks: The extent to which both the U.S. and China U.S. and China similar in four ways: 1. Common industrial trajectories: China industrial development today strongly resembles the U.S. of the late 1800s and early 1900s. 2. Human rights: While Americans deride the PRC on its frequent violation of human rights, the U.S. remains one of the few countries which officially sanctions capital punishment. China too, for that matter. This, unlike the rest of the great powers. 3. Fiercely protecting oil stocks: The extent to which both the U.S. and China protect global oil stocks is astonishingly similar. 4. Treatment of minorities: Like it or not, both the U.S. and China have been the same in their treatment of Native peoples, Tibetans and/or Uighurs, and native Hawaiians. Is China likely to become a democracy?" (p123). Militating strongly against this eventuality is how diligently the PRC has been learning from the experiences of both Taiwan and South Korea (growing middle class and how as examples of authoritarian states that were democratized under pressure from professional and entrepreneurs) as the CCP worked tirelessly to learn how to avoid precisely these scenarios. Just don’t see the PRC demise likely. Also -Who was Confucius -What was the Dynastic Cycle, -what was the Opium War, -How and why did the Qing Dynasty Fail

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Wong

    Intended primarily for the American reader, the book makes a number of cases for the similarity despite surface differences between the United States and modern China in their separate economic and political developments. The rest of the book gives a nuanced perspective of China not as a homogeneous society but one that is at root more respectful of the diversity of its population in spite of the overwhelming Han majority. A consistent analytic framework in the book is one which renders the now Intended primarily for the American reader, the book makes a number of cases for the similarity despite surface differences between the United States and modern China in their separate economic and political developments. The rest of the book gives a nuanced perspective of China not as a homogeneous society but one that is at root more respectful of the diversity of its population in spite of the overwhelming Han majority. A consistent analytic framework in the book is one which renders the now decades long uninterrupted rule of the CCP in the PRC, and perhaps beyond in a "One Country, Three Systems" rule to include Taiwan, to be swinging a pendulum narrowly between control with a tight fist (following an Orwellian Nineteen Eighty-Four) and looser liberalisation (following a Huxleyan Brave New World). The book offers glimpses of stalwarts in the CCP, such as Mao and Deng, the differences in leadership, etc., as well as a quick survey of Chinese history that includes foreign interlopers and the deep-seated humiliation that resulted and may continue to animate Chinese popular behaviour towards the world which the regime some of the time permits to surface but which, the book argues, could be and had proven to be double-edged and dissident for the powers-that-be.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beth Robinson

    This book was exactly what it wanted to be - a simple condensed guide of relevant history and cultural points related to understanding China today. The format was question and answer, grouped by theme, which worked well. I especially liked how some of the contradictions were presented- like how the view of Confucius by the state has changed drastically over living lifetimes, or how Mao might be viewed internally by an every-day person vs a higher-up vs a foreigner. Wasserstrom is especially inte This book was exactly what it wanted to be - a simple condensed guide of relevant history and cultural points related to understanding China today. The format was question and answer, grouped by theme, which worked well. I especially liked how some of the contradictions were presented- like how the view of Confucius by the state has changed drastically over living lifetimes, or how Mao might be viewed internally by an every-day person vs a higher-up vs a foreigner. Wasserstrom is especially interested in noting that China is not homogenous, neither in ethnicity, or regional attitudes, or generational perspective. Overall, it's a useful and positively oriented overview of what might be the key points and I enjoyed the clear reading experience.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Quick, clear, and a nice general overview. It's covering a wide range of information in a relatively small space so most things don't get too deep, but it's a great starting place and the notes contain a bunch of suggestions for further reading based on what you're interested in. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the reminder that even though the media is not explicitly censored in America, there is a limit to what we see/hear based on where public interest lies. As a whole we've got so mu Quick, clear, and a nice general overview. It's covering a wide range of information in a relatively small space so most things don't get too deep, but it's a great starting place and the notes contain a bunch of suggestions for further reading based on what you're interested in. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the reminder that even though the media is not explicitly censored in America, there is a limit to what we see/hear based on where public interest lies. As a whole we've got so much potential freedom when it comes to information about global affairs but often don't take advantage of digging for it.

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