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Showing 1-10 of 24 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 58 reviews
on November 17, 2013
Fairbank's love for China shows through this book but he simply does not provide enough factual information. He provides his own insights from years of study but seldom supports those conclusions with examples or at least a few anecdotes. The two volume history by Tanner is much better.
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on October 23, 2012
I found this history to be balanced and has a good broad coverage of the field. However, in some areas of interest to me, there was a lack of depth. Particularly the Neoliothic societies, and the transitions through the earliest dynasties.
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on February 16, 2011
I give China: A New History credit for trying to do it all. It hopes to condense hundreds of years of dynastic struggle, economic development, and external strife into a few hundred pages. It does so very poorly.

Think of this book as two in one: a look at the long and intricate history of the imperial dynasties, and an exploration of post-dynastic national development. With regard to pre-dynastic history, such a short read does the dynasties little justice. It leaves out many entirely, and spends mere pages on others. The book does slightly better when it explores the past century. It devotes at least some time to major movements leading up to and throughout the revolution. Where it once again falls short is in trying to explain a massively important struggle in a few words and then move onto the next. I am not completely dissatisfied with its historical coverage, however. Goldman does a great job of summarizing contemporary developments with a focused and balanced perspective. I would love for everyone outside China to read these sections, which concisely but effectively explain recent developments.

Thankfully, the book takes a largely impartial view of controversial and still-relevant issues. It fairly explains the motivations behind the CCP leaders without blaming or criticizing them. Fairbank was right to allow readers to draw their own conclusions from the facts. The epilogue, meanwhile, takes a more conclusive and opinionated stance about the future direction of the PRC. I enjoyed this section for its optimism about future change. Such positivity is grounded in the facts and figures of the preceding history.

At its beginning, the book also draws helpful comparisons between China and the West. For those with little knowledge of Asia but extensive knowledge of Europe, these links will make it easier to dive right into the content. The comparions seem reasonable, and consider the complexity of both cultural traditions.

I could accept this book as a generalized introduction to Chinese history, were it not for its pedantic and frustrating academic style. The approach is entirely off for an introductory history text, which should focus on major issues and trends. Take the book's focus on intellectuals. Intellectuals have played a unique and surprisingly volatile role in Chinese history, yet the book overstates their importance. It avoids discussion of the common people and their culture, and tends to focus on elites of all forms: the gentry-elite, the bureaucratic elite, the bourgeois elite, and others. It focuses on bureaucratic institutions, administrative structures, and economic development. Such an aristocratic perspective leaves out important details that define and continue to shape Chinese culture. To really understand why China holds so much influence in Asian history and is poised to shape the modern landscape, look elsewhere. Most of this book meanders and avoids satisfying conclusions.

Look to this book if you understand Chinese socio-cultural history but want to understand its basic political and intellectual institutions as they have developed through the ages. Do not come in without some prior knowledge, for you may be confused and and will probably not finish. For its cursory and off-putting style, I might give it one star. Goldman's additions near the end of the book earn it two. Look elsewhere for more relevant histories.
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on January 21, 2010
Wish there was bit more coverage of earlier history of China as 1/2 the book covers 20th century China. I enjoyed his coverage of Mao and PRC politics, read like a novel to me.

He tried to throw some economics in his review of China which was good but his economics is very weak. Apparently he believes that there needs to a special form of economics different from the balance of humanity to explain China. There is something very unique and strange about China that makes macro economics and microeconomics useless in China. For some reason low cost labor is a problem and not an asset to China in his eyes. And of course we says we can not compare economic development in Taiwan with that of the PRC because they are different.

I do get a feeling he is one of those progressives that grew up in the 1930s hates classical liberals and really believed that Communism would work if it only could be tweaked a little and has only failed because of bad men such as Mao and Stalin.
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on February 13, 2011
The 2006 version of this book has 2 added chapters from historian Merle Goldman. She wraps up the post-Mao events, economical, political, societal, and foreign interactions. The main part of the book is informative, with objective descriptions of events and people, the last two show the changes that have occurred since 1976, with a opening left for post-2005 China changes. Well worth having for anyone interested in Chinese history, whether modern or older. This book is good for the layman who may also want to learn more, as the suggested readings are comprehensive.
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on December 26, 2010
This review of Chinese history spans the entirety of Chinese history, however the edition that I bought only spanned until the middle of Deng Xiaoping's administration. Focusing primarily on trends and patterns over each period of history rather than on dates, names, and places, the reader can truly understand what was happening in Chinese daily life as opposed to just the major political leaders' lives. The author does infer at some points that the reader has a general understanding of certain events, so a complimentary textbook would be helpful.
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on February 23, 2012
My interest is ancient China. While "China: A New History" is materially rich, I found the topical layout disjointed. I have had to piece together bits of information on ancient dynasties from different sections. I also found the authors' commentary throughout the book distracting. I purchased "China: Its History and Culture" by Morton and Lewis and found it to be a well-written, materially rich book--excellent for anyone doing research on ancient China.
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on February 22, 2014
Long read, but very clear. The later updates written after Fairbanks death seamlessly fit into the text. A very good place to start a China education.
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on June 11, 2014
It's a great book if you are looking to get a good understanding of Chinese history and roots, though, given the limited amount of pages, it cannot go in details.
When I compare it with other books about Chinese history, the structure of the book is clear and it touches the author always touches the most important topics (not an easy task to summary over 4.000 years of history.
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on August 10, 2015
out of date. not modern China. but it is a good image about China.
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