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China's Brave New World: --And Other Tales for Global Times Paperback – May 22, 2007

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Editorial Reviews


"China's Brave New World is a must-read for anyone interested in the world's most rapidly changing society. Wasserstrom explores China with an ethnographer's lens: he takes the reader into coffee shops, fast-food joints, red-chip firms, and bootleg video parlors―the kinds of places where with-it young Chinese spend their time. These are the stories that lie behind the 'economic miracle' of post-Mao/post-Teng China." ―James L. Watson, Harvard University, editor of Golden Arches East: McDonald's in East Asia

"... rather effortlessly brilliant.... It penetrates with a lightly knowing eye and ear into the interior mind, heart and soul of giant China and the innumerable Chinese." ―AsiaMedia

"These are not only reflections on the 'brave new world' of China's globalizing regions, but also an intimate tour of the author's thoughts on Eastern Europe, the handover of Hong Kong, Mark Twain's Missouri, and much in between. Setting aside his hat of academic historian, Wasserstrom writes in lively, clear language and is not afraid to put his own actions and private feelings into his absorbing and penetrating accounts." ―Perry Link, author of The Uses of Literature: Life in the Socialist Chinese Literary System and Evening Chats in Beijing.

"This book provides a powerful lens for outsiders to understand a globalizing China and a unique mirror for the Chinese to reflect on their own society in a global context." ―Yunxiang Yan, author of Private Life Under Socialism

"... Recommended for medium-sized and larger libraries, as well as for the personal reading of librarians interested in China." ―Library Journal

"... readers will find themselves far more observant and attentive to local distinctions when they take their first or next trip to China." ―Stanley Rosen, The China Journal No. 60

About the Author

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. His books include Student Protests in Twentieth-Century China: The View from Shanghai. He lives in Irvine, California.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Reprint edition (May 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253219086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253219084
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,635,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is the author of four books on China and the editor or co-editor of several more, including most recently Chinese Characters: Profiles of Fast-Changing Lives in a Fast-Changing Land, which contains chapters by both fellow academics and such acclaimed journalists as Peter Hessler, Leslie T. Chang, Evan Osnos, and Ian Johnson. Wasserstrom is a Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine and the Editor of the Journal of Asian Studies. He is also the Asia editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books, an Associate Fellow of the Asia Society, and a co-founder of the "China Beat" blog.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By MPM on June 24, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a lay reader who is interested in China, I found this book delightful. It is packed with fascinating observations and compelling insights not only into modern China, but such broad and disparate topics as the philosophy of travel, the cultural history of theme parks, and the semiotics of public memorials. These are topics which academics tend to surround with a wall of high seriousness and impenetrable jargon, but Wasserstrom's essays are warm, personal, vivid, and engaging. You will definitely smile when you read this book, as when Wasserstrom compares the glassed-in case that holds the embalmed body of Mao to the one that preserves Sleeping Beauty in the Disney movie. Wasserstrom is fond of the image of the palimpsest, but for me what these essays suggest is a kaleidoscope: an assortment of anecdotes, observations, theories, and facts are thrown together in a beguiling manner that magically reveals new patterns and offers unexpected insights.

Wasserstrom is acutely observant of his surroundings and passionate about particulars, and one theme he turns to again and again in his wide-ranging essays is that it is a mistake to see the world being washed into a drab conformity by a tidal wave of Americanization. Globalization, from his perspective, is a complex process that runs in multiple directions and is always locally-inflected. Instead of decrying lost purity, he tries to analyze and enjoy the rich spectacle of altered meanings and odd intermixtures on display all around us. (One amusing Chinese example he cites is Mao nostalgia in the form of a cell phone ringtone.)

While hardly rose-colored, Wasserstrom's outlook in these "tales for global times" is much more positive than one normally encounters, and I for one found this very refreshing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Foarde on April 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Jeff Wasserstrom is among the most engaging of the new generation of U.S. intellectuals who study and write about China, and this book is a good introduction to how he thinks about the world and about China. The book is clearly a collection of essays begun and, in some cases, published elsewhere, and thus it doesn't hang together in the same way that a full-length tome might, but it's still a good read, because Professor Wasserstrom writes clearly and well.

Wasserstrom is interested in urban life, and shows that he loves and has an affinity for Shanghai. In addition to his interesting and trenchant comments about how urban life has changed in Shanghai, he takes a sympathetic but also critical look at Taipei and elsewhere in Taiwan, and also draws interesting analogies to urban changes happening elsewhere.

Professor Wasserstrom moved from Indiana University to the University of California at Irvine in the past couple of years, and we should all expect and welcome his future scholarly work. In the meantime, he is a frequent and welcome contributor to The China Beat, which is fast becoming one of the essential blogs in English about China and things Chinese.

Buy this book -- you'll learn a lot, and you won't regret having bought it!
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