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China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom (Samuel and Althea Stroum Books) Hardcover – March 1, 2010
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"This engaging, readable volume is a refreshing contrast to the tomes most China scholars produce."―Choice
"In his vivacious memoir China Watcher, leading American Sinologist Richard Baum recalls a time when just getting your hands on an internal Party document was enough to launch a career…."―The New York Review of Books
"One thing that makes this book valuable is that is shows how, over the course of Baum's career, not only has China itself changed profoundly but so have the methods scholars use to make sense of it."―Huffington Post
"What Baum does excellently in China Watcher is supply a wide-angle lens treatment to the major events of the past four decades, the sort of things only a person who was actually on the ground at the time can write about credibly. Imagine getting the fly-on-the-wall play-by-play half-an-hour before the recording of the Zapruder film, and you'll readily realize what I mean."―CNReviews.com
"Being a smart-aleck got him in trouble in academic circles at times, but it has served his memoir well. It is rare to find a serious scholar who is able to write about his life's work with such levity. We witness not just his knowledge (and ours) about China grow, but also watch him coming of age."―Mambo-Admin.com
"One suspects that many a stodgy China hand will publicly distain Baum's candid, colourful― often hilarious― retrospective. But they will clandestinely read this expose under the covers."―South China Morning Post
"Baum charts the breathtaking changes of the past decades."―Financial Times
"China Watcher offers the rare opportunity to learn this history as author Richard Baum did― from the front row…. It is rare to find a serious scholar who is able to write about his life's work with such levity. We witness not just his knowledge (and our) about China grow, but also watch him coming of age…. His measured optimism for the country and its relations with the rest of the world are all the more convincing for his exciting narrative about a long career of China watching."―Zócalo Public Square
"A superb, engaging memoir."―Gordon G. Chang, The Wall Street Journal Asia
"In this fine memoir professor Richard Baum reminds us of many events, truths, themes and insanities over his four decades of visiting, studying and writing about China as an exceptionally well-traveled academic. He writes nicely, though not so slickly that you are made to wonder why he isn't struggling harder to understand China (he believes understanding China is a terrifying constant struggle, even for so-called experts), and he thinks deeply, though without the unnecessary density common to academic studies that have very little to say and― tragically― a whole of space in which to say it….the book is a wonderful way to get a handle on the current situation between China and the United States without losing your mind or your composure, or falling asleep."―Tom Plate, syndicated columnist
"This book will resonate with anyone whose career-shaping fascination with mainland China originated in the decades before the policies of 'reform' and opening'… For readers whose interest in China came later…China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom lays the groundwork for appreciation of the challenges of Western China-watching since the Communist Revolution… for students or casual readers who may be new to China studies, this book supplies a readable overview of major developments in the PRC since the rapprochement in US-China relations ushered in by ping-pong diplomacy and the 1972 Nixon visit."―The China Quarterly, The China Quarterly
"Rick Baum has been both a leading scholar and a scholarly leader in the field of contemporary Chinese politics since the 1960s. This book provides intensely personal portraits of the American scholarly community and of a changing China, from the Cultural Revolution right up until now. I read it with great enthusiasm and enormous pleasure. It's the kind of book that's hard to put down."―Harry Harding, University of Virginia
"The special charm of China Watcher is the way Baum draws the reader into a world of musty archives and political rivalries, both grand and petty, to give us insights into the political, social, and economic transformation of China. Along the way we are treated to cameos from a wide range of actors, some of whom― like George H. W. Bush and Chalmers Johnson― go on to great notoriety. I literally had trouble putting the book down."―Michael L. Ross, UCLA
"Baum is one of the most insightful China watchers around and he provides a first―hand overview of developments in China interwoven with the nature and significance of China watching. He blends his own personal journal with the larger events, displaying liveliness and analysis."―Thomas Gold, University of California, Berkeley
"Simply wonderful! I read it right through."―Andrew Walder, Stanford University
"Both informative and humorous, this book is well―written, amusing, and provides a comprehensive view of the field of modern Chinese studies."―Merle Goldman, Harvard University and Boston University
"Written with flair, Baum’s memoir takes readers through a turbulent half century of China―watching and U.S.―China relations, offering a unique personal perspective on unusual Sino―American encounters. Baum takes us through the sometimes backbiting halls of Sinological academia to the Tiananmen uprising in Beijing, the Tibetan Plateau, the back streets of Hong Kong, the White House, and other locales. An intriguing and often humorous read."―David Shambaugh, George Washington University and the Brookings Institution
"An enthralling memoir, and a fascinating snapshot of recent China―U.S. relations, from the doyen of modern China watchers."―Rob Giffordformer NPR Beijing correspondent and, author of China Road
"Richard Baum has given us a rare and intimate gift: a wonderfully funny and revealing chronicle of adventure, as experienced by one of the greatest China watchers of our time. Baum’s odyssey through four decades of China’s rise reminds us that true friendship to China requires not only patience, but honesty. As the Chinese expression puts it, he has always dared to step off his horse to examine the flowers up―close."―Evan Osnos, China correspondent for The New Yorker
"Richard Baum has been watching China for decades with a combination of bemusement, shock, awe, and smarts, and he has instructed generations of China watchers. Now he’s finally shared the secrets of tea―leaf reading and produced a wonderful book that should be must―reading for anyone interested in where China has come from and where it’s going."―John Pomfret, author of Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China
"China Watcher is a fascinating, vivid, and personally honest book that is revealing about China itself and the efforts of outsiders to make sense of China’s policies and prospects. This book held my interest all the way through."―James Fallowsnational correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and, author of Postcards from Tomorrow Square
"An insightful and entertaining account of what 'China watching' is really like, from one of the most distinguished scholars in the field. Rick Baum combines a compelling tale of his own personal journey through China's recent tumultuous history with fascinating portraits not only of many of its key figures, but of the equally colorful cast of Western academics, diplomats, journalists, and intelligence operatives, who, like Baum, have long struggled to make sense of this huge and often mystifying nation. An important slice of the China story you're unlikely to find anywhere else."―Mike Chinoy, USC U.S.―China Institute, former CNN Beijing bureau chief
Top Customer Reviews
The book covers the Prof. Baum's years as a student at Cal Berkeley and professor at UCLA as his career as a "China Watcher" begins and evolves. He visited China many times which gave him opportunities to watch the many changes in China from Mao's death to 2010. It is a personal memoir of these years not a scholarly book but there is much scholarly info included.
As noted by another reviewer somewhat negatively, it includes his differences of opinion at times with other China scholars. I found this a positive not a negative. He is objective enough to realize that he has not always been right. These admissions are usually made with good humor and his professorial sense of humor is present throughout the book. Some of the same personal remembrances are present in his DVD classes also.
I was sorry to hear that Professor Baum died on 12-14-12. I believe he was a fine scholar, teacher and man. I recommend the book to anyone interested in modern China. Few were more well informed about China or as fascinated by it as he was.
There are so many Chinese origin people living in the USA and elsewhere in the world- there is no excuse to be ignorant . Grab a Chinese student and take him out to lunch!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Touching and personal account by one of the few academics having a first hand and in depth knowledge of ChinaPublished 1 month ago by Stephan Guerin
Baum offers an autobiographical tour de force on how he stumbled into China studies, and in doing so takes us on a journey to see how the country has transformed and evolved over... Read morePublished on August 17, 2013 by Carlos
Professor Baum lived in China at a time when little was know about the country in the West. His books is part autobiography and part contemporary history. Read morePublished on June 28, 2013 by John
Baum spends far too much time in this book settling scores with other China experts he disagrees with and abuses hindsight's twenty-twenty vision to make them appear foolish. Read morePublished on February 12, 2011 by Tyler Sheets