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The Search for Modern China Paperback – January 1, 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
-Dolores Steinhauer, Jefferson Sci-Tech, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
As for weaknesses, I thought the coverage of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution was weak. The horror of these two events is discussed too dispassionately. If readers have no previous knowledge of these two events, it is hard from this text to understand the nature of the true tragedy.
As a disclaimer, I am not a scholar of Chinese history. I had only read a few books and have had no academic courses in Chinese history
Unlike the tendency of most Americans to falsely claim the United States and the West in general are at the center of the historical unverse, this book presents modern Chinese history primarily in a Chinese context. I especially enjoyed the chapters about the fall of the Ming dynasty and the Kangxi emperor, who was probably the wisest and most capable of the Qing emperors.
Americans and other people should be better able to understand after reading Jonathan Spence's book, the resentment many Chinese still have about recent, as well as current Western interference and continued popular hostility toward Japan. For nearly a century, as Spence ably writes, China endured a system of western imposed unequal treaties, a semi-colonial western and Japanese presence in many large Chinese cities and Japanese invasion. The western intrusion in China had the inadvertent consequences of weakening the Qing dynasty. The Japanese invasion prevented Jiang Jieshi or Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist armies from completely defeating Mao's Communist forces. Had there been no Japanese invasion of China, it is likely the communists would have never prevailed over the Nationalists. The century of western and Japanese imperialism in China helps explain why many Chinese still harbor strong suspicions and resentment about recent and current United States policies toward China.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just a fantastic record of Chinese history for English language readers. Whether you are a student just learning about China for the first time, someone professionally working in... Read morePublished 25 days ago by EBP
I've read this book before, so it was everything I was hoping for when I ordered it.Published 1 month ago by racharooo
The content is nice but the cover is shabby. Maybe it should not be described as a "very good condition".Published 10 months ago by Uncle F