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China in the 21st Century
Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom
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China in the 21st Century

3.45  ·  Rating Details ·  343 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews

Within one generation China has transformed from an impoverished repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse Revealing that the newest superpower has much in common with other nations during their periods of rapid industrialization, Jeffery N. Wasserstrom provides an enlightening introduction to China's past and present and offers a framework for understandi

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Published April 16th 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published March 18th 2010)
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Sep 03, 2010 Angel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to learn about China
This was a very good introduction to the country of China. If you all you know about China is that they are Communists and big, then you really need to read this book. The author delivers on a big challenge: presenting a primer on Chinese history and culture that is accessible and concise. I think he achieves that pretty well. You get the key points of Chinese culture and history, and you will certainly feel like you learned something by the end of the book. The strength of the book lies in the ...more
Cynthia Bond
May 15, 2011 Cynthia Bond rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
Recommended to Cynthia by: Instructor
I had to read this book for a reflection paper for a course on Pacific Asian History, and I was pleasantly surprised how informative and easy to understand this book was! The author goes into great detail but in few words -if that makes sense. Starts out with a historical overview, which helped me in other aspects of my college course, and was EASY to understand. Then goes into more current history and issues that China faces today. Very open minded, no 'bashing' of any nation, just plain facts ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Billy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brief but useful book that will provide some insight into the hopes and fears of the current regime in China and the Chinese people. The first half focuses on the historical context; this is only partly successful in that it really doesn't inform the reader about the true historical sweep of the Chinese story. The book is better at clearing up misunderstandings that Americans have about what's happening in China now.
Su Xu
Apr 28, 2011 Su Xu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book for Chinese people to know how American think about China. There are some interesting points which are totally out of my mind. I will recommend it to all Chinese people who would like to talk about this topic with his western friends.
This is a good book for those who are new to China affairs, but bad for those who are already familiar with contemporary China. The first half of the book attempts to present contemporary China in the context of its longer history, although the pre-Maoist history is quite weak and (frankly) shoddy. Anyways, the purpose of this book is to introduce newcomers to modern Chinese society, and it does its job.
Meihan Liu
Sep 24, 2016 Meihan Liu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
New perspective. A lovely book.
Paul Samael
Jan 13, 2014 Paul Samael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent primer on modern China - but when I say "primer", I don't mean to imply that that it is simply a "noddy" guide. On the contrary, the author has a real talent for making some quite subtle and sophisticated points in a very striking but concise manner. To take just one example: when talking about China's approach to governance, he notes that there is a tendency in the West to seize on the authoritarian aspects, leading people to think of China in terms of George Orwell's ...more
Graham Mulligan
China in the 21st Century, What Everyone Needs to Know
Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Oxford Univ. Press, 2010

Reviewed by Graham Mulligan

Part 1 Historical Legacies

1. Schools of Thought
2. Imperial China
3. Revolutions and Revolutionaries

Part 2 The Present and the Future

4. From Mao to Now
5. U.S.-China Misunderstandings
6. The Future

This is a short book, 135 pages, with brief sections titled ‘Who was Confucious?’, ‘Why did the Qing dynasty fall?’ and ‘Is China likely to become a democracy?’ and so on. It’s
John Vanbrunt,
May 07, 2012 John Vanbrunt, rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
U.S. and China similar in four ways:

1. Common industrial trajectories: China industrial development today strongly resembles the U.S. of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
2. Human rights: While Americans deride the PRC on its frequent violation of human rights, the U.S. remains one of the few countries which officially sanctions capital punishment. China too, for that matter. This, unlike the rest of the great powers.
3. Fiercely protecting oil stocks: The extent to which both the U.S. and China
Stephen Wong
Mar 15, 2016 Stephen Wong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intended primarily for the American reader, the book makes a number of cases for the similarity despite surface differences between the United States and modern China in their separate economic and political developments. The rest of the book gives a nuanced perspective of China not as a homogeneous society but one that is at root more respectful of the diversity of its population in spite of the overwhelming Han majority. A consistent analytic framework in the book is one which renders the now ...more
Mina Soare
An overview of recent history through a socioeconomic and politic perspective, but for a more varied range of subjects, try ''China A to Z: Everything You Need to Know to Understand Chinese Customs and Culture''.

The book is structured in the question/answer pattern, meaning many a short introduction for many a short answer. A few longer descriptive pieces would have covered the same information more succinctly. That would have resulted in a great reduction of blank spaces, introductory expressi
Beth Robinson
This book was exactly what it wanted to be - a simple condensed guide of relevant history and cultural points related to understanding China today. The format was question and answer, grouped by theme, which worked well. I especially liked how some of the contradictions were presented- like how the view of Confucius by the state has changed drastically over living lifetimes, or how Mao might be viewed internally by an every-day person vs a higher-up vs a foreigner. Wasserstrom is especially inte ...more
Jan 01, 2015 Vanessa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Admittedly, I felt like I knew very little about China prior to reading this book, and because of an upcoming business trip I am in cramming mode. I quickly became overwhelmed by histories, travel guides, and scores of books about some aspect of the 5000 years of China. This book presented itself as a wonderful framework which provided me a general understanding of relevant topics surrounding contemporary China, and now I can go deeper into my specific areas of interest. It's a quick, enjoyable ...more
Apr 12, 2015 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quick, clear, and a nice general overview. It's covering a wide range of information in a relatively small space so most things don't get too deep, but it's a great starting place and the notes contain a bunch of suggestions for further reading based on what you're interested in. One of the biggest takeaways for me was the reminder that even though the media is not explicitly censored in America, there is a limit to what we see/hear based on where public interest lies. As a whole we've got so mu ...more
Nov 15, 2015 Marilyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-china, 2015
This was an assigned book to read before we began our stint in China as English teachers. I'm about 18 months late in reading it, so my experience is somewhat different now than it would have been then--experience and perspective under my belt. I read it with interest, however, weighing it against what I've been told by Chinese and what I've observed firsthand. To say that this is an oversimplification of China is a huge understatement. Is it China for Dummies? No, too short for that-- probably ...more
May 20, 2014 Tracy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a waste of time. Shame on a Professor of History who claims he knows "what everyone needs to know" about 21st century China. He blurs FACTS and white washes them. Don't write a book if you're just going to use tons of words to try and make something look better than it is. Chapter 4: One-Child Family Policy is CRAP!!! I wanted to throw the book across the room. This man obviously does NOT know what he is talking about!! If you want the TRUTH about the one-child policy and how it is ...more
Apr 16, 2012 Whitney rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolute beginners on China
Shelves: cultural-study
This was $1.99 on Amazon ebooks and I needed something easy for a train ride. I focused on northern Asia in college but felt myself getting out of date. If you don't know ANYTHING about China, I would say this is a good start to jump into meaty reads like Foreign Affairs articles. However, don't take the author's interpretations as gospel. He does a good job of laying out facts, but only use this as a platform to form your own opinions.
Suzette Kunz
This is a brief overview of current issues in China, set up in a question and answer format. That format worked well for me, because it kept me focused and kept the information in small, digestible chunks. That being said, there were times when the flow of questions weren't always logical to me, but it wasn't a big deal. Since I'm heading to China in a few weeks, this was a perfect, light book to help me get prepared for the trip.
Apr 27, 2011 Phil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Boring. Covers all the historical and political bases that matter,bu written in a Q&A format. I felt like I was reading the model answer to one of his course final exams(He's a History professor): "What role have mass campaigns played in the PRC?", "What does the handing of the Olympics say about today's China?", etc. If you've read much about China, you know most of this. If you haven't there are better books.
Mar 10, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Content is great. Good quick summary on relevant episodes of Chinese history to understand China currently. Layout is probably the best that can be managed for the subject, and the writing is academic. This is not a light coffee shop read, or something to pick up before bed. But it has some great , mostly historical, information.
This book surveys the historical issues contributing to China's current policies but doesn't go into any depth on any individual topic. Written in a conversational tone for a US audience, it's a quick read and perhaps a decent jumping-off point for someone who needs to learn a little about China in a hurry. Not a substitute for real academic writing on contemporary China.
Jan 02, 2011 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I definitely feel more informed about Chinese history, misconceptions people in the US have about China and issues and problems facing China after reading this book. I especially liked its Q&A format with short, quick chapters. I'd definitely like to read more by this author.
Matthew Green
This is an interesting, concise book. Writing in a Q&A format, Wasserstrom offers a nice introduction to modern Chinese history, society, and politics. I expected this to be almost a "China for Dummies" initially, but the answers and explanations he provides are on the whole quite good.
Aug 10, 2015 Tate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book because it was easy to read and understand whilst touching upon many subjects. Furthermore, it acknowledges its own biases and allows me to form my own conclusion. Read this one twice, in fact.
Nancy Mackay
Jun 12, 2015 Nancy Mackay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Question and answer format. One of the best ways to get up to speed on China today. Even though it is only five years old, the changes in the country are amazing. I'm looking forward to an updated edition.
marcus miller
Dec 31, 2012 marcus miller rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
If you want to understand China today this is a good place to start. Wasserman goes through a condensed version of Chinese history and culture and tries to explain the ways both countries misunderstand each other.
Stephen Jenkins
Sep 17, 2014 Stephen Jenkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this on the flight between Chicago and Beijing. I found it very helpful. It clarified several things for me and I think I have a slightly better picture of China right now. Also very helpful footnotes and further reading list.
I read this book because I teach about China in my Intro to Politics class... but I actually know very little about China. (I'm an Americanist - not a comparativist!) This was a great intro book that covers all the basics in a short amount of space.
Ana Yael Vanoye
A quick primer on China, useful for those of us who knew next to nothing about its history and policies, but perhaps not so much to those more versed on these topics. I would have liked to read a bit more on current Chinese people's everyday lives.
Abu Dhabi
Aug 30, 2014 Abu Dhabi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mainstream
Not bad. Good introduction material. Mercifully shorter than Martin Jacques' doorstopper, and broadly in agreement.
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Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, a Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, is a modern Chinese social and cultural historian, with a strong interest in connecting China's past to its present and placing both into comparative and global perspective. He has taught and written about subjects ranging from gender to revolution, human rights to urban change.

His work has received funding fro
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