- Hardcover: 528 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (August 28, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465019331
- ISBN-13: 978-0465019335
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #641,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750 1st Edition
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John Pomfret, Washington Post
[A] wonderful book . Westad upends, but ever so politely, a slew of misconceptions about China that have been concocted by his academic predecessors both in the West and in Asia . [He shows] that the foreigners' story in China is not the monochromatic account of malevolent imperialism that has dominated the discourse in U.S. universities but a much richer and more important tale. The brilliance of Restless Empire is that while acknowledging the threat to China inherent in its contacts with the West and Japan, Westad also shows that they inspired and amazed the Chinese and played the critical role in the opening of the Chinese mind.”
Restless Empire is a fascinating book and a pleasure to read. As well as providing a historical framework for understanding the behavior of modern China, it is full of interesting details and insights . Amid the anecdotes and the broad historical narrative, Westad also offers pointed reassessments of particular episodes in Chinese history . Another interesting angle to Restless Empire is its emphasis on the ambiguous impact of China's collision with imperialism . The restless reader may want to know what all this history tells us about the modern day. Westad places current developments in an interesting historical perspective.”
An astute, succinct study of modern China emphasizing overarching themes like hybrid identity and foreign influence rather than nationalism and centrality . A fresh look at a confounding nation the West has not yet figured out.”
[A] savvy history . Westad manages to compress a vast and complex history into a well-paced narrative that helps readers understand China's growing centrality in international affairs.”
Booklist, starred reviewA superb story of China's historically schizophrenic' relationship with the outside world . [A] compelling, expansive account. Westad has provided readers with both a remarkable and timely glimpse behind the curtain that is required reading for anyone interested in Chinese political history and economic development and the future of China's position in the international community."
Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order
Westad starts with an important piece of mythbusting, arguing strongly against the idea that China has been an inward-looking society closed to the rest of the world . Westad is particularly acute on the Cold War period, using impressive documentation to argue that China's relationship to the rest of East Asia was not just communist, but Confucian in the ties that Mao nurtured with his ideological younger brothers' such as Kim Il-sung and Ho Chi Minh . [Westad] makes[s] poignantly clear the obstacles to China becoming a global leader.”
Westad's clear account is extraordinarily useful, both for the context in which he puts it and for the use he makes of recent scholarship . I'm unaware of any other work of this chronological sweep that replaces the old Western impact on China' treatises so well with the findings of modern scholarship.”
A lucid and engaging book . This fine survey is the best guide to appear yet on the knotty entanglements of China's pasts and futures.”
[A] nuanced interpretation of the history of China's foreign relations . This is essential reading for students of modern Chinese history and for those interested in China's growing role in world affairs. Westad's ability to lucidly explain a complex subject makes this an excellent introduction.”
Stephen R. Platt, author of Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom
Odd Arne Westad's Restless Empire is an authoritative and lucid history of China's foreign relations from the peak of the Qing dynasty in the eighteenth century to the present day. Anyone seeking to understand the role China may play in our future world should start with this book.”
Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans and co-author of Mao: The Unknown Story
Written by one of the most distinguished scholars on China, this book brings clarity and insight into complex historical issues.”
Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China
Westad's Restless Empire is thorough, fast-moving, and consistently clear. It gives an excellent introduction to the vagaries of China's foreign relations over the last 250 years.”
Frank Dikotter, author of Mao's Great Famine
An essential guide to modern China's often violent encounter with the rest of the world.”
The Guardian, Best History Books of 2012
[A] fine example of the way history can begin to make sense of [China] for an outsider.”
Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books
A Sinologist who has written widely and lucidly on the cold war, Westad's Restless Empire is a rich history of the past 250 years of Chinese foreign policy.”
A revisionist attempt to break up tomes of statecraft and statesmen into histories of missionaries, businessmen, coolies, revolutionaries and scholars. Restless Empire is a personal, anecdotal and humanistic approach to history that uses the single common thread of China's turbulent past to tie 250 years of history togetherher people.... Westad is foremost a good storyteller, the most important qualification of a good historian. Compelling stuff.”
[A] timely new book . Westad takes us on a fast but sure-footed gallop over the heavy ground of China's relations with the outside world since the beginning of the serious incursions by foreign powers, especially the British . Westad has produced an entertaining, fulsome and useful addition to the deluge of literature on China.”
Charleston Post & Courier
Understanding China's cultural, commercial and diplomatic relationships to the U.S. and the rest of the world is an important task. That's why this book is so useful. For China, perhaps more than any other country, understanding its past is key to understanding its present and future.... Westad constructs his narrative from sources that include other scholarship, personal anecdotes and primary research, but with an accessible style. Restless Empire is a great example of macro-history written for the general reader.”
[Restless Empire] is a richly detailed, elegant meditation on China's search to define its role in the world, and answer that elemental question: What is China?... Westad masterfully relates China's vertiginous 19th-century decline, restless 20th-century experimenting with modernity and its dizzying resurgence today . A learned history.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Thus I approached this book with a bit of trepidation and was pleasantly surprised. By taking a international relations perspective Odd Arne Westad has managed to tame his subject matter by cutting through the domestic and social issues and giving us an analysis of how to understand China through its interactions with other states, starting with the strong position of the early Qing dynasty, to weakened interactions with the Imperial powers and finally the deft diplomacy to stay independent and relevant during the cold war period in a world that was forced to divide into a bipolar conflict. This all plays into how it now views its "peaceful rise" and its rightful place in the world.
The language is deliberately pared down and simple to understand, which is perhaps a function of Professor Westad's first language being Norwegian rather than English. This is of a great benefit for those without any background in Chinese history as it is direct and to the point.
Restless Empire avoids the pitfalls of the previous books by avoiding bringing in a host of minor characters to drive the narrative or overwhelming us with interesting trivia, instead it is the state, key personages and institutions that are the major actors in his book leaving the reader with a clear sense and analysis of how the situation evolved. It also avoids another pitfall of being Euro-centric in its analysis with ample space devoted to Japan and the USA. Whereas previous books perhaps overstate the importance of the Taiping Rebellion, Opium War and the Boxer Rebellion (due to the ease of access to primary data available in foreign libraries) these are dealt with quickly in 1-2 pages per topic and are placed in their proper context as important events that contributed to the demise of the Qing but only one part of the chain of causation - the other being the international situation and rivalry with Japan.
I was pleased to see that this book incorporated much of the latest scholarship, including details of how the Qing Empire was not as weak as previously assumed with research showing that during the early 18th century the productivity and standard of living of China compared favorably to any other part of the world and the economy was booming. Indeed Westad's argument is that the Qing Empire, had it not been crucially weakened by internal rebellions and wars had a good chance of catching up to the West on its own terms along the lines of Japan.
There is much trade and economic analysis that reflects the shift in emphasis in historical writing of the last 2 decades, which helps illuminate previously neglected topics such as the relationship of China with other Asian countries as well as the Chinese diaspora and students abroad. A chapter on foreigners is China is also useful in terms of their contribution to the development in bringing Chinese into modernity.
Finally, especially the in the first half of the book, due to focus on international relations and strategy we get a good insight to some of the less well known international players such as the USA, France in Vietnam and Germany (fascinating stuff - besides its model colony in Shandong, Nazi Germany also provided most of Chiang Kai Shek's military advisors up to 1939) and a focus on Taiwan and Okinawa. Taiwan, Okinawa, the Chinese Diaspora all help us place the world of today in a sharper focus and in its rightful historical context.
Again - all in all a very, very good book - especially for a new reader and definitely of a much higher quality than a lot of the dross that you see in the bookshelves as so many authors try to jump on the China bandwagon. (Just because you visited China a few times or lived in China for a couple of years doesn't make you a China expert!). I would definitely recommend this as a great foundational, introductory text.
In order to understand these and endless other questions that China poses for westerners, Westad pursuasively argues that it is imperative to understand the outlines of Chinese history and its relationship to the rest of the world since 1750 when the empire reluctantly opens its boarders to non-Chinese. Westad has set himself a huge task which he performs admirably well. The one problem is that the only way to cover such a massive subject to to do so by skimming the surface. Finishing this book I felt that I obtained a good overview of the complexity of China's relationship with other nations and in defining itself. I also appreciated the Suggestions for Further Reading because I was very aware that I didn't really understand any of the issues raised in the book. All require substantially more space than the author was able to provide. But again, and excellent overview.