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Books: Modern China


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Hi guys.

I saw this has been done for books on Chinese history... but I'm looking for non fiction books on China, modern China if possible. Stuff that you guys would highly recommend to someone who wants to learn more about China today.

Vague question I know, but, anyway, let me hear them! I'm hungry for knowledge.

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Just yesterday I reccomended the book River Town by Peter Hessler to someone interested in China. It's a memoir written by an American who spent two years in the mid-nineties teaching English in Sichuan, where he and his fellow teacher were the first foreigners to arrive in more than 50 years. His account of being a Westerner in China was really spot-on, and thankfully, he recognizes his outsider status and doesn't claim to portray much more than his own experience of China. However, you do get some great insight into modern Chinese thinking because Hessler includes excerpts from assignments that his students have written for his classes.

I also enjoyed the book Red Dust, A Path Through China, written by Ma Jian, a Chinese dissident who took to the road, travelled all around the country, and then wrote this narrative. I think he did his actual travelling in the mid-80s, but I still found it very relevant.

Hope this feeds your hunger!



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I think that the best possible book for modern China is written by the authority (IMHO) on China, Jonathan Spence called The Search for Modern China. It starts at the collapse of the Ming Dynasty and works up from there. It is a thick book, but like anything else from this author, it is a very enjoyable read.

This should be the starting point for any journey into modern Chinese history. It presumes no foreknowledge of the subject, but does not treat people like idiots. After this book, you will have a much better idea where you want to go and can ask informed questions.

Hope this helps.

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Have enjoyed Mr China, by Tim Clissold, and am recommending it to friends. Honest and insightful account of what doing business here is actually like.

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Go to www.slate.com, search for Henry Blodget, from the results, click on "Go East, Young Man", you'll see a series of stories.

In the begining, the author knew nothing about China. He borrowed a pile of books and started his study. He got many many feedbacks from his readers, adjusted his views, and finally he went on road, visited Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. His stories are fun. Sometimes he made mistakes, but I think he got some points at last. This is a thoughtful person, though sometime he over-depicted his adventures.

Regardint Mr. China that carlo mentioned, in Where's My $58 Million, Madame Wu?, the author tells many funny stories from the book. But he didn't take too long time to find out his readers didn't agree with the book.

One criticism of my "Where's My $58 Million, Madame Wu?" column, in which I described the adventures of a 1990s China investment fund, was that, given the speed at which China is changing, the 1990s were equivalent to the Dark Ages. So let's get up to date. ...

After all, you'd better blend your readings with Chinese sources and English sources. Otherwise you can hardly get a whole and more accurate picture.

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I think the criticism is appropriate, but up to a point: knowledge of history, especially recent history, is very useful.

If you are interested in books in Chinese, give us a shout, I may have some suggestions too (even though last time I tried I think I got censored :D).

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cui ruide

I just got Hessler's River Town as well as DeWoskin's 'Foreign Babes in Beijing', which I've started and seems to be very good, talks about her experience going there in '95 for a few years--pretty recent as far as these go.

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cui ruide

I just finished "Foreign Babes in Beijing." I didn't realize it just came out in May.. I enjoyed it, and it's a very interesting look at the author's life in Beijing for 5 years ending with the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. There's a lot about the portrayal and representation of culture and nation, the issues facing expatriates among natives, etc.

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