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China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power Paperback – August 1, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The husband-and-wife team of Kristoff and Wudunn, whose reporting of the Tiananmen Square massacre for the New York Times earned them a Pulitzer prize, range from Beijing to the Tibetan highlands in their illuminating look at the changes and contradictions unfolding within Chinese society.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This thought-provoking analysis of daily life in China is the first book to rival Fox Butterfield's China: Alive in the Bitter Sea (LJ 4/15/82). All the authors are New York Times correspondents, but while Butterfield did five years of graduate work in Asian studies, Kristof graduated from law school and WuDunn has an MBA and a master's degree in public administration. As a result, they analyze China in terms of its progress in the areas of civil rights and business. The authors argue that today's leaders are remarkably similar to those of past dynasties but that, given their entrepreneurial energy, Chinese people are living better now than ever before. In interviews with many different types of people, Kristof and WuDunn (who won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the Tiananmen Square massacre) observe that Chinese society is changing slowly in the face of much blatant injustice. On a positive note, they see China as a nation that is beginning to appreciate the benefits of law over imperial rule. Highly recommended.
--Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, Ill.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679763937
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679763932
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth W. Movius on April 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
While there is much to criticize about China Wakes, there is also much to recommend it. There is ample reason that it has become one of the classic "must reads" China books: it is an easy, accessible read that assumes the audience knows little, if anything, about China, and it covers very attention getting "human interest" type stories.
The latter fact has drawn much fire in other reviews, that murders and scandals are hardly representative of any country. While I concur, it also reveals the major problem of Western journalism on China: ignoring the big picture in favor of the exciting story. I have enormous respect for Kristoff and Wudunn as professional journalists, and for their colleagues now working for the NY Times in China. The current Beijing correspondent has done amazing work on the cover-up of the AIDS epidemic in China, the Shanghai correspondent has broken ground with his coverage of organ harvesting in prisons, and another of their staff has done notable work on labor unrest. Those stories are important and provide insight into the larger workings of the machine that is China, but compiled together would create a rather skewered version of the very complicated entity that is China. Unfortunately, what the average American wants to read on China is such sound bytes.
I read this book five years ago for a college class, just after returning from my first trip to China. Even then, it was outdated. A deeper criticism, though, is the book's Beijing bias. I, granted, have my own bias as a Shanghai-lander, but it's frustrating reading books by Beijing-based expats. In Beijing, politics is everything and everything is politics, and foreigners, especially journalists, are sequestered into isolated compounds.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By "onna" on March 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although I was skeptical at times of both of the authors' views and sometimes found their views simplistic, I thought they offered an informative and insightful view of the different stories and themes we often hear about China from the news. The authors are obviously not scholars or academics, but journalists; there were times when I wished that the authors would have provided a little more "evidence" to support their contentions (which I thought were necessary for a book and that maybe weren't as necessary for their NYT articles....) I also thought their use of numbers and statistics was a little too loose to be entirely relied upon. However, Kristoff and Wudunn acknowledge their own biases and their own limitations in understanding and reporting on China and they do an excellent job of giving context to the personal stories of various Chinese. They paint a vivid portrait of China as a nation - bringing color to the various provinces and the people dispersed across them - and as a member of the international community. An excellent job of transforming China from a gigantic unknown country populated by Mao suits to one teeming with ordinary and extraordinary people confronting life in modern China during the Deng years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
The book was unique with the couple writing alternate chapters that give 2 views each, from a Caucasian and a third generation Chinese. This made a startling difference from other books. That perhaps was what made it such a riveting read, making it difficult to accuse the author of being biased. The contents painful for me to see the many wrong doings of people of my race, as well as the many innocent people who suffered for the wrong causes. Shattered idealism is perhaps the paramount reason for such a crumbling dynasty. The authors were a bit harsh with references to the system in certain parts but the depth of discussion balances in views made the book focused and objective. China's history is fascinating and endless. Reading the book without prior knowledge about China's history long before this modern era may do injustice to the Chinese people and their leaders. I loved the analysis and discussion, along with some strong insightful comments made by the very knowlegable authors. Nonetheless, people should not use this reportage to quickly make assumptions about China because every country, no matter how big, powerful and advanced, has skeletons in their closets.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Vincent on June 4, 2006
Format: Paperback
Written by two New York Times reporters, "China Wakes" provides a very penetrating view into Chinese culture, but at the same time, adopts a very selective and sensationalistic tone that in the end tends to exaggerate both the problems and the pluses of today's China.

By the time I read this, in 2006, the book was already over a decade old, and given how fast and drastically China has been changing over the past several decades, it's easy to dismiss this book as already irrelevant, and indeed, many of the topics it discusses are already dated. However, I still enjoyed reading China Wakes because it was an interesting exercise in comparing the authors' predictions with the results, more than 10 years later.

My personal verdict? I think as reporters for a world renowned newspaper, Kristoff and WuDunn had both the vigor to find fascinating stories and the writing skill to really capture the emotions and issues evolved, but at the same time, I think the unique position as reporters detracted from their credibility in making predictions for China's future. Exactly because they were reporters, they met the richest of the rich, the most corrupt of the corrupt, the poorest of the poor, and the most persecuted of the persucted. This self selecting, though admitted (albeit in the final chapter) by the authors, indeed does present a rather skewered, extremely bipolar image of China: in fact, the running theme of the book is reconciling the dual images of China as a vibrant economic miracle and China as a brutal and repressive "thugocracy." Unfortunately, because of this, it seems as most of their sensationalistic predictions, and the confidence in which they foresee the coming "collapse of the Communist dynasty," are misguided.
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