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Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  351 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
From two of today's foremost experts on China, a thought-provoking new history that helps us understand China's future by looking at its rise over the last 150 years.

Wealth and Power is a sweeping account of the key, iconic intellectual figures and political leaders of China since the mid-1800s. By examining what they thought and what they did through lively and absorbing
Hardcover, 478 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Random House (first published January 1st 2013)
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Aug 03, 2013 Roya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am in the process of immigrating to China as an expat for a 3 to 4 year assignment. I can say that, until now, I have not found any book about China to be very helpful. Most are negative, and view China through a western lens. None helped me to understand the people or culture. This book is different. First, it is readable and interesting. Secondly, I thought it was a very balanced and thought-provoking account of modern China from the Opium wars to the present, seen from the point of view of ...more
Erez Davidi
Feb 11, 2016 Erez Davidi rated it it was amazing
I've had a keen interest in China for the last several years. As anyone who reads the papers would know, China is gaining more and more media attention. This has also manifested itself in a major inflation of books about China. It has become quite hard to choose the "correct" books to read about China. "Wealth and Power" is by far one of the best books I have read about China's recent history in the past few years.

"Wealth and Power" examines China's recent history dating from the first Opium War
JS Found
Apr 02, 2014 JS Found rated it it was amazing
This is a good history of China in the modern age told through the lives of its leaders and intellectuals. The aim of these people was to bring China, that traditional, classics bound kingdom, into the modern world, where it would not be so isolated, interact and profit from its neighbors and other countries, and improve the lives of its citizens. There were many ways this problem was thought out, and the authors take you pretty much into the thoughts and writings of the characters, one of whom ...more
Jul 16, 2013 H. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Wealth and Power follows Chinese history from the Opium Wars to today. Modern Chinese history is generally considered to have begun with the Treaty of Nanjing at the close of the first Opium War. Schell and Delury see special significance is using that first great humiliation of China at the hands of the modern world as the starting point, central to a thesis they use to explore Chinese history through its intellectual history. Roughly, that thesis is that modern Chinese history is best understo ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Kelsey rated it liked it
A thorough and detailed overview of modern Chinese history, starting from the Opium War era to the present day. The authors focus on an influential Chinese figure for each chapter, each representing a different period in Chinese history. Although this approach was clean and gave me a fairly good analysis of what types of sentiments and events were present during the time period, powerful personages were sometimes not given as much attention as I would have liked-- for example, Zhou En-Lai was ha ...more
Jan 30, 2014 Joanna rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-world, china
This book tells the story of China in the 19th and 20th centuries through an analysis of the political thought of some of the country's most important political thinkers and leaders. It concentrates on the way political thinkers dealt with China's perceived humiliations by foreign powers and their proposals for change. In the case of political leaders, the authors review the changes they brought about, emphasizing the two themes of this volume: overcoming humiliation and escaping the hold that C ...more
Derek Sutter
Nov 24, 2013 Derek Sutter rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book to anyone. Of course, it is great for history buffs, but, beyond chronologically-delivered information, it contains political power plays, the stories of individual heroes, the exploration of ideas, differing techniques of governance, tales of economic successes and economic failures, and personal tragedies. Indeed, I think this book can offer an enjoyable and enlightening read to for any person's leisure or study.
Jim Puskas
Feb 08, 2016 Jim Puskas rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
An overarching theme of this book is China's long struggle to overcome its nearly two centuries of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers. Justifiably proud of an ancient and highly accomplished culture, China has been punished by a succession of invading armies, colonized by imperialist aggressors, exploited by foreign business interests, offended by proselytising missionaries. All of which has been so difficult for China to tolerate that despite their starkly conflicting political approach ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Mary rated it liked it
Schell traces China's climb from the depths of its "despair" with the invasion of their country by the British in the Opium Wars to contemporary China's achievements in the area of "wealth and power." His focus is on multiple major characters that had a major influence on a period of time and effected change. His premise is that China started from a position of great shame at losing their wealth and power in the 19th century and were tirelessly working to regain their previous position by acknow ...more
Nam Le
Aug 12, 2016 Nam Le rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
As a Vietnamese citizens, I am always interested to the history of China, a strong and irritable neighbour, especially how this nation could rise from the poor and backward country to one of the most powerful and influencing power on Earth. The book took an very unorthodox and interesting approach to Chinese history from the beginning of the Opium War to the rise of Xi Jinping in recent years, by focusing on the lives and works of major critical thinkers and political leaders such as Sun-Yatsen, ...more
Jul 20, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
Engaging and easy to follow. Enough detail to interest more knowledgeable readers and a compelling overall thesis: that much of Chinese development can be understood in terms of a dialectic conflict between Legalist/Realpolitik and Confucian/Idealist concepts of government. Spoiler: the realists have won for now. I think the chapter on Chiang was problematic. It relied too heavily on Snow's contemporary accounts and didn't really present serious claims by recent scholars like Mitter and Taylor w ...more
Tommie Whitener
Oct 01, 2014 Tommie Whitener rated it really liked it
Organized by chapters on successive Chinese rulers and significant political figures, this book is one of the reasons I still buy some books in paper rather than digital versions. I want it sitting on my bookshelf the next time I feel the need to review, say, Deng Xiaoping's lasting influence on China. However, as more than 300,000 democracy demonstrators are in the streets of Hong Kong and Xi Jinping continues assertive Chinese foreign policy, it is helpful to be able to view those events in hi ...more
Jun Ohoh
Jul 22, 2014 Jun Ohoh rated it really liked it
Intriguing read on why Chinese leaders decide which way to turn in the current geo-political context. With "wealth and power" as the goal to strengthen the state and it's society, the virtues take a back seat to the Legalist's pragmatism. Just get there and we'll be strong again, and no will ever humiliate us again. This is their sin, and history will no doubt repeat itself with as shallow and backward a goal as this. True maturity in civilization advancement comes through the cooperation and im ...more
Oct 10, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it
Great historical overview, but falls short in conveying how undying, pervasive Confucian values will continue to guide the nation -- democratized or not. (Henry Kissinger's work "On China" highly recommended.)
(Full Disclosure: I had the honor of meeting one of the co-authors of this book and getting my copy signed by him. Having said that, the views expressed here are my own and do not reflect that of the author or publisher.)

In recent years China has seen explosively economic growth. Even though China's growth is expected to slow down this year, it is still predicted to grow at an estimated 6-7%, a rate that most other countries envy. It has also allowed China to stretch its legs in international po
Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century, by Orville Schell and John Delury is a book about China's progression through the slow decline of the Qing Empire in the late 19th and early 20th century. The book chronicles this progression by examining the efforts of 11 of China's most important thinkers, leaders, politicians and activists. These figures are as follows:

1: Wei Yuan: political scholar in the Qing Empire
2: Feng Guifen: self-strengthener during the Qing decline
3: E
Extremely readable, written with historical depth yet with the immediacy of a journalist, and one of my favourite types of book, intellectual history written through the lens of key individual biographies. Some of the figures are obvious - Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai Shek, Mao, Deng Xiaoping, and these chapters are done well - but the first few and last couple - Wei Yuan, Feng Guifen, Cixi, Liang Qichao, and finishing with Zhu Rongji and Liu Xiaobo - are perhaps less well known and interesting. The ...more
“When the country is humiliated, its spirit will be aroused.” Wei Yuan, 1842

“From ‘Our technology is not as good as other people’s,’ to ‘Our political system is not as good as other people’s,’ and on to ‘Our culture is not as good as other people’s,’ Chinese reflections on our own defects probed ever deeper. But the primary mind-set that guided the probing was neither ‘liberation of humanity,’ nor even ‘enriching people,’ but rather a sense of shame at China’s loss of sovereignty and other natio
Scott Drummonds
Oct 08, 2013 Scott Drummonds rated it it was amazing
Incredibly story of China's modern history. Through the century of humiliation Schell describes China's repeated failures to establish peace, prosperity, and the eponymous wealth and power. Through the lives of a handful of China's greatest influencers, he covers the intellectual roots of change and the failed attempts to revitalize a failing ancient empire.

Set against those 100 years of failure, Schell shows how Mao, Deng, and others were able to finally achieve the fantastic dreams of their in
May 02, 2015 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an excellent overview of the people and events that have played a part in the last three centuries of China's history, and for that, I'm very glad I read it. I certainly have a much better understanding of the context behind China's current and past actions on the world stage and internally.

However, the authors beat the "wealth and power" statement to death. There were times the phrase would come up three or four times in a couple pages. The thesis was clear throughout the book without
I really enjoyed reading about the eleven different people featured in this book. It was interesting to see how their ideas changed in their own lifetimes, and also to see how people's ideas changed from the middle of the 19th century until nowadays. I also enjoyed reading all of the notes at the back of the book because they gave me ideas for future books to read, especially the one about Sir Edmund Backhouse and his thoughts about China while he was living there AND the one about the Empress D ...more
Apr 23, 2014 Adnan rated it really liked it
Wonderfully written summary of major thinkers and leaders of China in the past 2 centuries. Explains why China is where it is now; the clash between Confucianism and Socialism. Many things I did NOT know about this now major player in the world and how it got there. Simple prose, chapters arranged chronologically, taking you form one personality to the next. This book can be studied as a crash course in modern China.
Apr 05, 2014 Jacob rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure about this book but the other reviews sold me. I really like this book. I learned a lot about modern Chinese history and key figures. The authors did a great job not only describing historical events but also linking them to the evolution of Modern China. Would definitely recommend to anyone interested in China.
Vincent Lombardozzi
May 04, 2014 Vincent Lombardozzi rated it it was amazing
Highly readable book on modern Chinese history. The chapter breakdowns by person was an effective way to guide the reader through China's evolution and pursuit of wealth and power.
Oct 15, 2013 Marv rated it really liked it
Excellent review of China's history from the time of the first Opium war, the 1830s, to the present day. The book is told by profiling about a dozen leading thinkers, activists and politicians, and is written by two academics who are clearly masters of the subject matter. The rise of China since 1978 seems (even more) astonishing after reading this account of, generally, directionless and ineffective leadership for most of the 140 years prior to turning the corner following the death of Deng Xia ...more
Feb 27, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library
A very readable and informative book - I recommend it highly if you want to both know more about modern Chinese history and understand the motivation and ideas of the powerful players.
Kevin McKenzie
Jul 10, 2014 Kevin McKenzie rated it it was amazing
Phenomenally readable Chinese intellectual history. Good primer for a beginning reader.
Jun 16, 2016 Max rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
Read this book on a flight to China (and return). Interesting and well written.
Hom Sack
Oct 07, 2013 Hom Sack rated it it was amazing
Just remarkable. The best book I've read on Chinese history and politics so far. Most informative are the short biographies of the individuals who were influential in the transition, from the eighteenth century to the present. I only wish "Strength" is used instead "Power" in the title, (the other translation of the Chinese word) because I think it offers a better destination for the country. BTW, you might find the Orville Schell discussion of the book at the USC U.S.-China Institute interestin ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school-books, china
A really fascinating look at modern Chinese history through important leaders and political figures, all fighting to gain wealth and power for China in their own way. The author did a really great job of weaving the themes throughout the book. This becomes especially obvious in later chapters when current strategies for attaining wealth and power are related to opinions of the figures earlier in the book. The chapters were also enjoyable to read, not too academic and not too pop fiction, just se ...more
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