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Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic, Third Edition [Paperback]

by Maurice Meisner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 1999 0684856352 978-0684856353 3
In this much-anticipated revision, Maurice Meisner again provides piercing insight and comprehensive coverage of China's fascinating and turbulent modern history. In addition to new information provided throughout this classic study, the new Part Six, "Deng Xiaoping and the Origins of Chinese Capitalism: 1976-1998," analyzes the country's uneasy relationships with democracy, socialism, and capitalism. Meisner incisively displays the contrasts between China's speech and actions regarding these subjects. Retaining the elegance, lucidity, fairness, insightfulness, and comprehensiveness he is known for, Meisner moves far beyond his previous work to paint a never-before-seen portrait of the political and social realities of China on the brink of the millennium, and the global implications of its rise to economic and political power.

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Editorial Reviews


Foreign Affairs Of the thousands of books that have been written about contemporary China, only a few will stand the test of time. This is one of them.

William W. Finan, Jr. Editor, Current History With this new edition, Maurice Meisner deftly places the "new" China that so captivates the West into the historical stream of policies, politics, and personalities that have ruled the country since Mao's 1949 revolution. His work is a refreshingly clear exposition of the contradictions and continuities that define China today.

Zhiyuan Cui Professor of Political Science, MIT Splendidly relates the human drama of the Chinese people and their leaders, with empathetic understanding and constructive criticism.

Lin Chun London School of Economics One of the foremost historians of our time, Professor Meisner offers a brilliant analysis in this new edition of the irony of Chinese socialism and of the origins of Chinese capitalism: the single most important theme in an age of catastrophic "transitions," with implications that go far beyond the border of the PRC.

William A. Joseph Chair, Department of Political Science, Wellesley College A superb and much-needed updating of a book that has been the definitive text on the history of the People's Republic of China....A deeply thoughtful and thought-provoking account of the socioeconomic, political, and ideological consequences of China's move toward the market in the post-Mao era....enriching and enthralling.

Marilyn B. Young Professor, History, New York University An excellent expansion of the original.

About the Author

Maurice Meisner is the Harvey Goldberg Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Visiting Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. His writings, which have been translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, include Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism; Marxism, Maoism and Utopianism; and many other works on modern Chinese history.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 587 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 3 edition (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684856352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684856353
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
As a whole, this an excellent text. Meisner exhibits an incredible knowledge and understanding of the tragic history of the PRC. As he takes the reader on an incredible exploration of the PRC's many vicissitudes,Meisner, despite being a historian by trade, consistenly gives the reader masterful economic and political analysis of the events that swept the "Middle Kingdom" during this last half-century. In addition to this, he dissects with precision the manifold conceptual arguments, theoretical polemics, and numerous speeches Mao offered to the people as to how and why these incredible changes could and should occur. Upon completion of it, I am definitely better versed on the myriad events that have shaped today's PRC. From China's revolutionary heritage all the way up to the rise of Deng, Meisner is consistently clear and captivating. His masterful use of economic, political, sociological, and historical analysis is impressive. He also demonstrates quite a knowledge of Marxist-Leninism and Maoism. However, at times I felt bogged down by it all, and honestly had to wonder how germane it truly is to the events that transpired. Yet, as a whole, I still have to conclude that this book is excellent and should be considered on of the key books for someone investigating contemporary China.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Maurice Meisner got on my good side in the introduction to this, the third edition of his history of the People's Republic of China: He admitted and set about correcting errors in earlier editions - specifically, his previous, erroneous view that China's economic opening was a political expedient, not a genuine and astounding policy shift. How often do you come across an author -- or anyone! - admitting he was wrong? So I read on, confident I was in the company of an honest analyst. My rising expectations were rewarded. Meisner's analysis is fair-minded and authoritative. I've read a good bit of modern Chinese history, but almost every page of this book delivered a new insight or deepened my understanding of what I already knew. Among the things that struck me: the extent to which the Chinese revolution originally was a rural phenomenon and the consequences of those origins; how successful the communists were in establishing order and a functioning government in the early years after their victory; the fact that much of the violence of the Cultural Revolution was started not by starry-eyed Maoist zealots but by entrenched bureaucrats diverting attention away from themselves and toward helpless intellectuals and people with "bad class backgrounds.''

The book is sometimes repetitious; Meisner drives home his themes again and again. And I found myself a little frustrated at times by what I took as Meisner's Utopian socialist outlook. He seems sympathetic to the idea that pure socialism - worker ownership of the means of production - would have created some kind of perfect, democratic society in China.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A left-wing popular history of modern China December 18, 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Maurice Meisner, one of the US' foremost Sinologists, did an excellent job writing a popular history of the People's Republic in "Mao's China and After". Starting with the fall of the Empire and the May Fourth movement as well as New Culture, Meisner then skips to the point where the Chinese Communists have won the Civil War. He discusses the Maoist, Liuist, Dengist etc. periods in Chinese history in depth, taking a very large-scale view concentrating in particular on economic and social history, with some commentary on the position of intellectuals thrown in (in particular with the Hundred Flowers movement and the Cultural Revolution).

Meisner gives a solid left-wing perspective on all the relevant issues, focusing in particular on the successes and failures both of Mao's view of socialism, which, as Meisner points out, was itself on the left wing of the Communist Party of China. As some reviewers have noted, at times this does a disservice to his eagle's view of things, as a lot of social history in which Mao plays only a tangential role is ignored: there is no part on the position of women and changes in this, no description of the Civil War itself at all, practically nothing on the war against Japan, and even the Great Leap Forward gets only a summary description. On the other hand, this allows him to focus very strongly on the relation between economic policy and economic structures on the one hand, and the roles and views of the leaders of the Party on the other hand, surely an essential but often missing element of any serious political history.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great general overview August 26, 1999
By A Customer
I am very glad I read this book (which Howard Zinn recommended to me). I feel I have a firm grasp of the basics of 20th Century Chinese history now. Meisner really takes an independent line: he doesn't just parrot Chinese or US propaganda. I feel he makes reasonable surmises about motivations and actions which are still unclear, given the secretive nature of the Chinese government. In all, one of the best history books I have ever read.
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