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J. D. Spence's Second Edition edition (The Search for Modern China (Second Edition) [Paperback])(1999) Paperback – January 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 2nd edition (1999)
  • ASIN: B0042X50MO
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,561,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Excellent!The product is full of high quality.
Liu Shuangqiu
This is essential reading for both Chinese studies majors and anyone who wants a comprehensive, well-researched history of modern China.
trueintaiwan
It's very well written and flows quite easily considering that its a history book written from an academic view point.
Darko Gavrilovic

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

143 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Thomas F. Ogara on August 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book, now in its second edition, has been quite successful and has in one sense managed to fill a perceived need among literate westerners, particulaarly Americans, to know something about modern Chinese history.
However, few people appreciate what a ground-breaking book this was, at least in its first edition. That it was a popular history of China ("popular" in the sense that it was not primarily designed to be a college text) was not unique; reasonably well-researched surveys of Chinese history have been around since the nineteenth century. But for those of us who sat through an undergraduate course on Chinese history prior to 1980, Spence's approach was refreshingly un-Eurocentered.
Once upon a time, Chinese history was presented in two neat halves: the first half was "traditional" China from prehistoric times to the Opium Wars (1840's). The second half was everything else going forward. The overall impression was that everything changed when the white man appeared - which is, of course, a misperception, to put it mildly. Spence conceives of "modern" Chinese history as beginning with the Ming Dynasty, and treated the Western intervention as just one theme among many.
Thus, Spence was able to present a new view of China to a new generation, and it was a viewpoint that explains a great deal more than previous ones did. That he does it in such a compelling way, opening new vistas up to us in the process, is what makes this a great book. A great deal of thought and sensitivity has gone into this work, and it deserves to be appreciated for that.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on April 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in contemporary China, this books provides the necessary historical backdrop in great and well reasoned detail. In my reading, Spence explains better than anyone why the Chinese currently prefer stability over democracy and why the country has made a slow and halting entry into the modern world. While making no excuses for the excesses of the Party's leadership, Spence chronicles the immense change that Mao and his successors initiated, not from the standpoint of solely the 20th Century, but over the last 300 years. If you are looking for a single book that provides a 360° view of the evolution of this ancient and complex civilisation, this is the book for you. Spence is also a master of eloquent and concise prose, refreshingly un-academic in tone and yet a brilliant synthesis of contemporary research.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "kingtycoon" on November 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Just examining the China/Far East section at your local bookstore will reveal just what an authority Spence is. In the US he dominates the field and this book is his most comprehensive offering. He does indeed support a very modest bias, as another reviewer has pointed out, but this is far less apparent than in the many many other books that deal with the subject. None of Spence's contemporaries really compare, and none of his other works do either. As an history this is a phenomenal guide, providing rich detail and a cohesive overview. As I have said though - there is a slight bias in his thesis, but in the field of recent Chinese history an unbiased opinion is as rare as a comprehensive view. That is to say, of any book you're likely to find on the subject 'Search' is the most comprehensive and the least slanted.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A.C. on January 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Unfortunately, some of my Yale brethren are unhappy with Mr. Spence's fabulous book. Well, it's their loss. The book offers wonderful insights into China and its history, revealing the deeper patters that underlie the eras of China's diverse leaders, from Kangxi to Mao. Read it. Love it.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By H. Zhang on April 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
I am disappointed by the book. I wanted to give this book 3 stars initially, then I thought it is an extremely challenging task to write a comprehensive book on modern Chinese history. China went through an exceedingly chaotic period for the first half of the 20th century when wars of all categories took place one after another. During this period, many historic events were not well recorded and the current ruling party CCP has declassified little of its archive. I do not know how much the Nationalists have declassified their archive. All of this makes the writing of modern Chinese history exceptionally difficult. I have not seen any better alternatives, so I give 4 stars to this book despite my deep disappointment.

To me, the most interesting and educational part of the book is its first third covering the history leading to modern China. My prior knowledge of that part of Chinese history was from high school textbooks, bits and pieces from other literature, so the systematic and coherent narrative of the Qing dynasty and the events leading to its establishment was educational and fascinating. I salute Prof. Spence for that.

The pre-modern China part was not the reason for me to read this book. I was looking for a comprehensive and objective work on the history of modern China, especially the first half of the 20th century. Soon after I turned to the pages of that part, I was puzzled, stunned and deeply disappointed by its bizarrely unbalanced coverage. Sometimes, I felt I was reading a long excerpt from a typical document of the CCP's propaganda apparatus which my father used to serve but despises now. The difficulty of gathering materials should not justify wholesale style quoting of a political party's documents. The reason we need scholars like Prof.
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