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Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century Paperback – September 9, 2014
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“Superb . . . beautifully written and neatly structured.”—Financial Times
“[An] engaging narrative of the intellectual and cultural origins of China’s modern rise.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Informative and insightful . . . a must-read for anyone with an interest in the world’s fastest-rising superpower.”—Slate
“It does a better job than most other books of answering a basic question the rest of the world naturally asks about China’s recent rise: What does China want?”—The Atlantic
“The portraits are beautifully written and bring to life not only their subjects but also the mood and intellectual debates of the times in which they lived.”—Foreign Affairs
“Excellent and erudite . . . [The authors] combine scholarly learning with a reportorial appreciation of colorful, revealing details.”—The National Interest
“I know there are lots of China history books these days, but this one is really well done. It tells the story with lots of interesting historical characters and deep insights into the country. Really worth reading.”—Fareed Zakaria (Book of the Week)
“In a provocative new book whose ideas have already begun stirring debate among China watchers, Orville Schell and John Delury argue that the quest for national rejuvenation, or for wealth and power, has long been at the heart of modern Chinese political and intellectual thought.”—The New York Times
“I highly recommend Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century, an excellent new book from Orville Schell and John Delury. The book goes a long way to explaining what drives the current leadership, and why betting against their resolve to reform may be risky in the medium to long term.”—Bill Bishop, The New York Times
“Wealth and Power offers everything readers might expect from its two eminent authors. It is both sweeping and specific, authoritative and lively, sympathetic and critical, offering the perspective of both the hedgehog and the fox. The hardest challenge in writing about China, or finding things to read about it, is perceiving significant patterns while remaining aware of the chaos and contradictions. Orville Schell and John Delury meet that challenge in exemplary form. I only wish that they'd written the book years ago, so that (along with other readers) I could have been taking advantage of its insights all along.”—James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic
“Orville Schell and John Delury have delivered a brilliantly original and essential book: the road map to China’s quest for national salvation. This is a story of ideas and the vibrant figures who shaped them: rebels, thinkers, and rivals, united by the quest for reinvention. It is required reading for anyone seeking to understand China’s motives and the future of global competition, and is, quite simply, a pleasure to read. Vivid, literate, and brimming with insights, Wealth and Power deserves to become a classic.”—Evan Osnos, China correspondent, The New Yorker
“In Wealth and Power, their crisp and comprehensive introduction to the history of modern China, historians Orville Schell and John Delury present us with the historical background we need to understand the driving mechanism that lies at the center of China today. By no longer presenting China’s past two centuries as a record of recurrent failures and humiliations, they give us a portrait of a nation in the making, and of leaders with the skills and determination to redirect China’s energies on a global scale. The change of perspective is valuable and challenging.”—Jonathan D. Spence, author of The Search for Modern China
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Orville Schell was educated at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley and is the author of numerous books and articles on China. The former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley, he is presently the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York City.
John Delury received his Ph.D. in modern Chinese history at Yale University, where he wrote his dissertation on the Ming-Qing Confucian scholar Gu Yanwu. He taught at Brown, Columbia, and Peking University, and was associate director of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. He is currently an assistant professor of East Asian studies at Yonsei University in Seoul.
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In recent years China has seen explosively economic growth. Even though China's growth is expected to slow down this year, it is still predicted to grow at an estimated 6-7%, a rate that most other countries envy. It has also allowed China to stretch its legs in international politics by joining the WTO and laying claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea. While China's economic and political rise may seem like a relatively recent event, especially when considered in the context of China's long history stretching back several millennia, its rise has been a long-sought-after goal stretching all the way back to the beginning of the 19th century. This wonderful book charts modern China's fall and rise through a series of biographical sketches of key Chinese scholars and political leaders such as Wei Yuan, the Empress Dowager Cixi, Sun Yat-Sen, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping. Each of these figures wrestled with the question of how to restore China to wealth and power in their own time and in their own way. Through their struggles we see how China's humiliation at the hands of the Western powers in the 19th century still haunts the country today. But what is also interesting is how, like a leit motif throughout a beautiful symphony, the question of where democracy and human rights fits into China's desires comes up repeatedly. Needless to say, many of these leaders had a complicated relationship with democracy ranging from hesitancy to outright hostility. The exception would be the last biographical sketch on Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese democracy activist who won China's first Nobel Peace Prize, but is still in jail for his activities. The point the authors seem to be making with his inclusion at the end is that, now that China has attained wealth and power, public figures like Liu Xiaobo may become more prominent in the future. The question that the authors leave us with is whether democracy is something Westerners desire for China or Chinese desire for themselves. Not all of the biographies in this book are great. The one covering Sun Yat-Sen was particularly forgettable, in spite of his influence on the thoughts of China's leaders in the 20th century. Still, this is a great history/multiple biography of modern China that I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about this increasingly wealthy and powerful country.
Mssrs. Schell and Delury examine the process of intellectual and ideological evolution by looking at the lives and thoughts of eleven Chinese political figures, from Wei Yuan (who called for reform in the early 19th century), through Chiang and Mao, up to Deng and Zhu Rongi. In the process, they remind the reader of what happened as a weakening China was exposed to a rising West, and of the grim political history of the past hundred years.
They arrive at two key points, I think. First, China's long period of weakness vs. the West (and Japan) left a burning sense of shame and of resentment, which could only be assuaged by besting the West at its own game. This has produced a powerful nationalism which seems deeply imbued with anti-foreign feeling as a defining element in what it is to be Chinese. Second, the authors seem to me to argue that the only way that China could truly advance into the modern world was to break with traditional Chinese culture, and the only way of achieving that breakage was though massive destruction. That, I think, is what they mean when they attribute "creative destruction" to Mao -- a term of description, not approval.
In any event, I have read a lot about China over the years, and this is one of the best -- and most enlightening -- books that I have read on the topic. Moreover, it is enjoyable to read!
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But well worth it if you want to understand the psyche of the Chinese government.Read more