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The Search for Modern China

by Jonathan D. Spence

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1,1811814,302 (4.25)39
This text, the classic introduction to modern China for students and general readers, emerged from the author's introductory course at Yale, in which he traced the beginnings of modern China to internal developments beginning in the early 17th century. Strong on social and political history, as well as Chinese culture and its intersections with politics, this work is a longstanding leader in the survey course on modern China.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Good overview of recent Chinese history. Often sympathetic to Mao. ( )
  apende | Jul 12, 2022 |
A 'magnum opus' work in the field of modern Chinese history. Do not be daunted by its length: this book remains compelling from the height of the Ming dynasty in the 1600s right to the last pages, which cover Tiananmen Square, 1989.

Spence's strength is his expert balance between chronological narrative and historical analysis, which makes for an invigorating reading experience. I read this book in less than a week, fueled by the genuinely well crafted structure and smooth prose of the book which made for a 'page turning' experience.

If you have no prior knowledge of Chinese history, I recommend starting with a more concise overview, or two. However, once you've developed a basic grasp of the direction of Chinese history, I highly recommend investing a focused period of study in order to delve into the "deep end" of Chinese history with a "The Search for Modern China".

( )
  EchoDelta | Nov 19, 2021 |
History of China, strangely sympathetic to the communist party. I really don't understand why a book by a western historian would be so sanitised of the communist atrocities. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 31, 2020 |
The classic modern history textbook. ( )
  richardSprague | Mar 22, 2020 |
This book shows how China's efforts to respond to her encounter with the imperial industrial powers from the 1840s to the 1970s were an unmitigated disaster. The Qing state made efforts to modernise the economy and military, sending students abroad, recruiting Western armaments experts, building railways, and so on. But the circumstances were impossible. Rapacious predations by foreign forces and devastating internal civil wars denied China time and space to carry out the needed development. In one pathetic incident, a new Chinese fleet was entirely and ignominiously sunk by French ships within minutes. Resistance to westernisation from inside the regime, which as a foreign conquest state was anxious about its own legitimacy, made a stark contrast with the unified determination of Japan's Meiji state-led industrialisation and military reforms. Japan went on to abuse China for decades herself. In a further disastrous outcome, China was taken over by a Stalinist psychopath whose catastrophic policies turned the mid-20th century into a waking nightmare, a man who even today is held in official honour by a regime too frightened by its own failures to permit honest discussion of the past. Only after Mao's death has China combined an era of peace with competent leadership and successful state-guided industrialisation policies. But her traumatic encounter with the imperial powers between the Opium Wars and the Japanese occupation still defines her approach to the world today: a determination to overcome the "Century of Humiliation" and maximise her power to address the world on her own terms.

Some essential books on modern and contemporary China:

[b:Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China|1848|Wild Swans Three Daughters of China|Jung Chang|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1440643710s/1848.jpg|2969000]

[b:Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China|18490568|Age of Ambition Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China|Evan Osnos|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1418113377s/18490568.jpg|26174286]

[b:The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers|7822182|The Party The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers|Richard McGregor|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1348918012s/7822182.jpg|10863112] ( )
  wa233 | Oct 26, 2018 |
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This text, the classic introduction to modern China for students and general readers, emerged from the author's introductory course at Yale, in which he traced the beginnings of modern China to internal developments beginning in the early 17th century. Strong on social and political history, as well as Chinese culture and its intersections with politics, this work is a longstanding leader in the survey course on modern China.

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W.W. Norton

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