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Understanding China: A Guide to China's Economy, History, and Political Culture
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Understanding China: A Guide to China's Economy, History, and Political Culture

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  149 ratings  ·  28 reviews
After ten years, John Bryan Starr has thoroughly revised and updated his classic introduction to the background of, the data about, and the issues at stake in China’s present and future. In the new edition, Starr seamlessly weaves in additional material on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese government’s ongoing efforts to curb the influence of the Internet, and the ...more
Paperback, Third Edition, 448 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Hill and Wang (first published 1997)
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Scott Marley
I haven’t read much outside of novels but wanted to in choosing Understand China. In picking something to read you must let whatever topic of interest floats and stays within you to direct your course. I purchased this book in May of 2011 and was a bit slow on reading it all the way through. I desired to learn about a country I knew little about, other than what you hear word of mouth which can be as reliable as Wikipedia. As the final page turned I was left with knowledge that put a few more wr ...more
Michael Gerald Dealino
A good book for those with scarcely any knowledge of China and also a useful supplement for those who do, Prof Starr gives a concise yet updated and relevant brief of China's geography, ethnic diversity, economics, the environment, and political culture. He also dispels some of the myths about China being propagated by mass media, specifically the claim that China would be the next-or the only-superpower. By deftly explaining the intricacies of today's China, he explains what the mass media don' ...more
James Dunphy
I picked this book up because I a) have a love of history and b) have a love of Asian cultures. It took be a little over a year to finish this between school and other lighter endeavors, but I'm glad I did. Fantastic understanding of a complicated country. I would recommend this is anyone who is either interested in foreign countries, or ANY business student looking to get into the world of international business. Starr helped me on both accords with this book. I have it annotated and will be go ...more
Stephen Sullivan
An excellent introduction to understanding the history of and current issues relating to China.

Being that it is an "introduction" type book my only criticism is that Mr Starr forgets that people outside of America do read his books as well as this book is one hundred percent targeted to an American readership with his 'like us in America.." type statements. Very irritating but not something that can not be ignored.

As a first read on China I can highly recommend it.
This is a fabulous book for anyone wanting to understand that large and complex country. I recommend it highly.
John Bryan Starr makes an excellent analysis of the situation in current China taking into account historical, economical and political background. His deep knowledge and study of the topic are irrefutable. However, if you are not an expert in the fields of economics and politics, the writing is extremely dense, figure-loaded and with too much unnecessary information. Also, as a traveler to China, for example, you would expect to get some insight into certain interesting aspects of the Chinese c ...more
May 27, 2013 Pauline rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anybody who wants to learn about contemporary China
Recommended to Pauline by: Tauck Tours
I read this book because I was taking a trip to China. I started reading before I left, but after the first two chapters, it was getting boring, so I put it aside. When I returned, I picked it up and finished it, and it really started to make sense to me. I understood the information in the book and I enjoyed relating what I saw to what I read. I think that it is a clear and fairly unbiased assessment of China today. Starr discusses history, geography, economy and politics. He makes sharp observ ...more
In this comprehensive overview of China, John Bryan Starr explores the challenges facing modern China as it moves to become and remain a major player on the world stage. Some challenges are due to its geography with its allocation of natural resources, some challenges are internal with its political structure, urban/rural discrepancies, and minority populations, and some challenges are external with the push/pull relationships with its partners in the economic community, and its quest for source ...more
Shea Mastison
This is truly a fantastic snapshot of China from the late '90s. John Bryan Starr takes his immense familiarity with Chinese social structure, the Communist Party state, and the Peoples' Liberation Army and ties in their various influences and aspirations to paint one of the most complete pictures of China that I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Inevitably, China will be (and is already) a major player on the global political scene. Taking that as fact drives the us toward comprehending the n
This book should have been named "hating on china" lol. The author handles china as you would an enemy. I felt as if I was in a C.I.A. Briefing on the subject of china. The only thing I understand now after reading this dry work, is China has flaws. As a student of mandarin I picked this book up hoping to read a complete spectrum of good and bad. Well, all I got was the bad. I didn't give this book a bad rating because it's written well, and it's very informative. I just had something else in mi ...more
Patrick McCoy
John Bryan Starr’s Understanding China is a good general introduction to modern China. He looks at the country from a variety of perspectives: political, cultural, diplomatic, environmental, economic, and so on. It is a well-informed and well-researched book; Starr is a professor of Chinese history at Yale University as well. He ends the book by speculating potential futures for China; he seems to be a bit of a doomsayer predicting a collapse of the system. Admittedly China has huge problems wit ...more
A pretty good read, although it gets a little too pedantic in parts and the tone can be overly scholarly. It does provide a good overview of the challenges to China's form of governance- which Starr perfectly summarizes as 'Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics'. He is unsparing in his criticism of Deng's reaction to the Tiananmen protests, but is also even-handed in charting the course for China's future economic growth and increase in personal liberty post-Mao. The section on the relationshi ...more
Bone dry, no-nonsense approach to describing the People's Republic. He takes a structural approach, emphasizing that the current state of Chinese politics and economy are very much the result of history, with particular emphasis on recent history (i.e. China since Mau). I think I would get a lot more out of this book if I had a better sense of the Who's and What's of Chinese history, particularly 20th Century, but for providing a baseline understanding of the current state of play, it's a great ...more
Some interesting history and context. I was unaware of the extent of conflict between local and central government in Chinese history. Also was interested in the use of consensus vs argument when passing laws and mandates. Author is no fan of the communist party.
Rick Zhu
This book is perfect for people that are curious about China. This book was broken up into sections about culture, history, and the structure of its society. The great thing about this book was that the sections were not so in-depth as to overwhelm the readers. I personally was looking for a more narrow explanation behind it's culture, history and the structure of its society, which was why I did not thoroughly enjoy this book.
I give this 4 stars only because of my own ignorance in not having read other books to compare it to. It may be worthy of 5. The book covers a brief history, cultural philosophies, geography, current political issues, environmental, ethnic, relations with other countries, and more. Written and organized well.
Raymond Thomas
Really good look at the elements of economics, politics, and culture that make the People's Republic of China what it is today. A wonderful resource for anyone looking to really study the evolution of China since the 1980s, particularly with an eye on the important issues facing China today.
"Understanding China" concisely covers the historic, economic, political, and social events and issues over China's modern history during the 20th century until 2008. It is a good choice for a primer in understanding this growing behemoth of an economy and world power.
For anyone curious about China - it's culture, history and the structure of its society - this is the best place to start. No particular section is so in-depth as to be overwhelming and it does paint broad strokes, but consider it a primer before delving deeper.
So far, what I have read, I think this guy does not like China. I still have a bit more to go to make a final conclusion but so far that's just what it looks like. I never understood why someone would write about something they do not like?
Donna Herrick
The book is well organized and comprehensive, but I really would have liked to have had references for quotations, and a basis for the opinions. I can't be sure whether I got an honest report from this book or not.
Azeem Malik
Starr does a good job at summarizing the environmental, economic, political, social, and other issues that China is facing. Though the book is a little dated, it is a good primer to understanding China.
Stefan Martiyan
Probably the only history book I've ever read cover to cover by choice. I read it before moving to China, and it gave some good insight into all aspects of the dynamic that is China.
China's developing pretty fast, so this is already out of date. Which is too bad, because for about five years this was a really good, up-to-date book.
If you have no prior knowledge of modern China, this book will certainly give you a good foundation. Very simple and straightforward. Very readable.
A fairly good overview for someone looking for a sweeping, and not terribly detailed, history of china.
So far, a succinct and coherent big-picture look at the complicated and important place called China.
Although written in 1997, book is already out of date.
Ellen marked it as to-read
Apr 13, 2015
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Understanding China  [3rd Edition]: A Guide to China's Economy, History, and Political Culture Ideology and Culture: An Introduction to the Dialectic of Contemporary Chinese Politics Continuing the Revolution: The Political Thoughtof Mao Post-Liberation Works of Mao Zedong: A Bibliography and Index

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