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China Insight: “China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know”

by on April 29, 2010

In the last thirty years, China has grown from a relatively poor and isolated nation, into a global economic and political powerhouse.  As a result, the need to understand how the country’s economic, political and legal systems are developing is paramount.  China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Jeffrey Wasserstrom, is a good starting point for those looking for answers  to their questions about doing business in and with this burgeoning superpower.

Wasserstrom discusses similarities between China today and the U.S. during its industrialization in the 19th century and also makes some reasonable predictions about how China will act towards, the U.S., Russia and another rising power, India.

The China Law Blog has a brief, but helpful summary:

“The book is part of an Oxford University series, “What Everyone Needs to Know.” Wasserstrom nicely explains the goals of the book on the Huffington Post:

It would be inaccurate, though, to claim that there was nothing I’d said or written that served as a building block for this new book. This is because the questions I chose to include were culled largely from the many that have been put to me during the last decade by students, colleagues, strangers sitting next to me on long flights to Asia, school teachers at outreach events, and people I have run into in unexpected places who after learning that I teach and write about China for a living told me what they had always wanted to know about that country. The book gives me a chance to refine the off-the-cuff answers I have given to these queries and try to weave a large collection of responses to disparate questions into a lively presentation of where China has been lately and might be headed. In the process, I am also offered the opportunity of working to unsettle common misunderstandings about China that I feel hinder the ability to see it for what it is–a place that is amazingly complex but by no means “inscrutable” (a word that still shows up far too often, generally without the scare quotes, in discussions of the place and its people).In a sense, then, as those who have read my posts to this blog and commentaries for related venues will realize, the book can be seen in part as a long-long-form version of the often very short pieces of writing I’ve been publishing frequently in recent years. (Long-form, but not that long, as China in the 21st Century is still plenty short enough, as political scientist Susan Shirk pointed out in her very nice endorsement statement for the back cover, to be read in-flight between taking off from one side of the Pacific and touching down on the other.) And, in fact, when I’ve written blog posts or newspaper commentaries, I’ve often done so in part to try to answer or place into a radically new light a question put to me by someone who was curious to learn more or I felt had gotten a distorted idea about China.

Part I of the book is entitled “Historical Legacies” and it is broken down into the following subsections:
1. Schools of Thought
2. Imperial China
3. Revolutions and Revolutionaries

Part II is entitled, “The Present and The Future” and ot consists of the following subsections:
1. From Mao to Now
2. US-China Misunderstandings
3. The Future

The book also has a very thoughtful section on “Further Reading.”

It is either not out yet or just came out this week and there is only one review on Amazon so far, but it is quite accurate:

“China in the 21st Century” provides a good background on China, though it is rather bland reading. In addition to providing background on China, Wasserstrom also addresses important issues (eg. “Is war likely over Taiwan?”) in a even-handed manner. The author also brings appropriate focus – eg. reminding readers that even though intensively competitive, about 70% of its largest businesses are still state-owned. However, the book lacks any solid projections for the future – especially China’s economics.

It is only about 150 pages and judged within that confine, it does an amazing job. My knowledge of Chinese history comes mostly from a few college courses and from current event readings that make brief mention of relevant historical events. I found reading the history section of the book very helpful and enjoyable because it pulled together in a coherent format much of what had been floating somewhat disjointedly in my head. If you are anything less than a true China history expert, I guarantee this book will serve either as a great starting point for you or as a great refresher. Wasserstrom does a great job explaining both what happened and its relevance/impact on present day China.”

Read the orignal post at the China Law Blog

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