Noah Smith 🐇
Saturday open question: What are your favorite nonfiction books about modern China?
Book mentions in this thread
We Have Been Harmonized
by Kai Strittmatter"Terrifying. ... A warning call. --The Sunday Times (UK), a "Best Book of the Year so Far" "A remarkable book. ... The more one reads, the more pressing one conclusion becomes: almost everything we thought we knew about contemporary China is wrong." --The Observer, "Book of the Week" Hailed as a masterwork of reporting and analysis, and based on decades of research within China, We Have Been Harmonized, by award-winning correspondent Kai Strittmatter, offers a groundbreaking look at how the inter-net and high tech have allowed China to create the largest and most effective surveillance state in history. China's new drive for repression is being underpinned by unpre-cedented advances in technology: facial and voice recognition, GPS tracking, supercomputer databases, intercepted cell phone conver-sations, the monitoring of app use, and millions of high-resolution security cameras make it nearly impossible for a Chinese citizen to hide anything from authorities. Commercial transactions, including food deliveries and online purchases, are fed into vast databases, along with everything from biometric information to social media activities to methods of birth control. Cameras (so advanced that they can locate a single person within a stadium crowd of 60,000) scan for faces and walking patterns to track each individual's move-ment. In some schools, children's facial expressions are monitored to make sure they are paying attention at the right times. In a new Social Credit System, each citizen is given a score for good behavior; for those who rate poorly, punishments include being banned from flying or taking high-speed trains, exclusion from certain jobs, and preventing their children from attending better schools. And it gets worse: advanced surveillance has led to the imprisonment of more than a million Chinese citizens in western China alone, many held in draconian "reeducation" camps. This digital totalitarianism has been made possible not only with the help of Chinese private tech companies, but the complic-ity of Western governments and corporations eager to gain access to China's huge market. And while governments debate trade wars and tariffs, the Chinese Communist Party and its local partners are aggressively stepping up their efforts to export their surveillance technology abroad--including to the United States. We Have Been Harmonized is a terrifying portrait of life under unprecedented government surveillance--and a dire warning about what could happen anywhere under the pretense of national security. --John Naughton, The Observer, "Book of the Week"
The Cultural Revolution
by Frank DikötterThe concluding volume--following Mao's Great Famine and The Tragedy of Liberation--in Frank Dikötter's award-winning trilogy chronicling the Communist revolution in China. After the economic disaster of the Great Leap Forward that claimed tens of millions of lives from 1958–1962, an aging Mao Zedong launched an ambitious scheme to shore up his reputation and eliminate those he viewed as a threat to his legacy. The Cultural Revolution's goal was to purge the country of bourgeois, capitalistic elements he claimed were threatening genuine communist ideology. Young students formed the Red Guards, vowing to defend the Chairman to the death, but soon rival factions started fighting each other in the streets with semiautomatic weapons in the name of revolutionary purity. As the country descended into chaos, the military intervened, turning China into a garrison state marked by bloody purges that crushed as many as one in fifty people. The Cultural Revolution: A People's History, 1962–1976 draws for the first time on hundreds of previously classified party documents, from secret police reports to unexpurgated versions of leadership speeches. After the army itself fell victim to the Cultural Revolution, ordinary people used the political chaos to resurrect the market and hollow out the party's ideology. By showing how economic reform from below was an unintended consequence of a decade of violent purges and entrenched fear, The Cultural Revolution casts China's most tumultuous era in a wholly new light.
by Tim ClissoldMr. China tells the rollicking story of a young man who goes to China with the misguided notion that he will help bring the Chinese into the modern world, only to be schooled by the most resourceful and creative operators he would ever meet. Part memoir, part parable, Mr. China is one man's coming-of-age story where he learns to respect and admire the nation he sought to conquer.
Against the Law
by Ching Kwan LeeThis powerful study opens a critical perspective on the slow death of socialism and the rebirth of capitalism in the world's most dynamic and populous country. Based on remarkable fieldwork and extensive interviews in Chinese textile, apparel, machinery, and household appliance factories, Against the Law dissects the world of Chinese workers today and finds a rising tide of labor unrest mostly hidden from the world's attention. Intense working-class agitation is being spurred by massive unemployment of Mao's socialist proletariat in the northern rustbelt and by the exploitation of millions of young workers in the southern sunbelt. Providing a broad comparative political and economic analysis of the vast mosaic of this labor struggle together with unprecedented fine-grained ethnographic detail, the book portrays the multi-faceted humanity of the Chinese working class as their stories unfold in bankrupt state factories and global sweatshops, in crowded dormitories and remote villages, at heroic moments of street protests as well as in quiet disenchantment with the corrupt officialdom and the fledgling legal system.
Why Nations Fail
by Daron AcemogluShortlisted for the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award 2012. Why are some nations more prosperous than others? Why Nations Fail sets out to answer this question, with a compelling and elegantly argued new theory: that it is not down to climate, geography or culture, but because of institutions. Drawing on an extraordinary range of contemporary and historical examples, from ancient Rome through the Tudors to modern-day China, leading academics Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson show that to invest and prosper, people need to know that if they work hard, they can make money and actually keep it - and this means sound institutions that allow virtuous circles of innovation, expansion and peace. Based on fifteen years of research, and answering the competing arguments of authors ranging from Max Weber to Jeffrey Sachs and Jared Diamond, Acemoglu and Robinson step boldly into the territory of Francis Fukuyama and Ian Morris. They blend economics, politics, history and current affairs to provide a new, powerful and persuasive way of understanding wealth and poverty.
by Richard McGregorIn this provocative and illuminating account, Richard McGregor offers a captivating portrait of China’s Communist Party, its grip on power and control over China, and its future. China’s political and economic growth in the past three decades has been one of astonishing, epochal dimensions. The most remarkable part of this transformation, however, has been left largely untold—the central role of the Chinese Communist Party. In The Party, Richard McGregor delves deeply into China’s inner sanctum for the first time, showing how the Communist Party controls the government, courts, media, and military and keeps all corruption accusations against its members in-house. The Party’s decisions have a global impact, yet the CCP remains a deeply secretive body, hostile to the law and unaccountable to anyone or anything other than its own internal tribunals. It is the world’s only geopolitical rival of the United States, and is primed to think the worst of the West.
A Chinese Life
by Philippe OtieTraces the development of the modern Chinese state while the author chronicles the trials and tribulations of the Chinese everyman as he embraces the new order in childhood, serves in the military and with agricultural labor, and becomes a member of the Communist Party.
The Making of an Economic Superpower
by Yi WenAbstract -- Introduction -- Key steps taken by China to set off an industrial revolution -- Shedding light on the nature and cause of the industrial revolution -- Why is China's rise unstoppable? -- What's wrong with the Washington consensus and the institutional theories? -- Case study of Yong Lian : a poor village's path to becoming a modern steel town -- Conclusion : a new stage theory of economic development -- References
The Good Women of China
by XinranFor eight groundbreaking years, Xinran presented a radio programme in China during which she invited women to call in and talk about themselves. Broadcast every evening, Words on the Night Breeze became famous through the country for its unflinching portrayal of what it meant to be a woman in modern China. Centuries of obedience to their fathers, husbands and sons, followed by years of political turmoil had made women terrified of talking openly about their feelings. Xinran won their trust and, through her compassion and ability to listen, became the first woman to hear their true stories. This unforgettable book is the story of how Xinran negotiated the minefield of restrictions imposed on Chinese journalists to reach out to women across the country. Through the vivid intimacy of her writing, the women's voices confide in the reader, sharing their deepest secrets for the first time. Their stories changed Xinran's understanding of China forever. Her book will reveal the lives of Chinese women to the West as never before.
by Maggie ClintonMaggie Clinton traces the history and cultural politics of the fascist organizations operating under the umbrella of the Chinese Nationalist Party (GMD) in the 1920s and 1930s, showing how the GMD's rightward shift was based on a nativist discourse that emphasized Confucianism's compatibility with industrial modernism.
by Alexandre TrudeauTo this day, China remains an enigma. Ancient, complex and fast moving, it defies easy understanding. Ever since he was a boy, Alexandre Trudeau has been fascinated by this great county. Recounting his experiences in the China of recent years, Trudeau visits artists and migrant workers, townspeople and rural farmers. Often accompanied by a young Chinese journalist, Vivien, he explores realities caught in time between the China of our memories and the thrust of progress. The China he seeks out lurks in hints and shadows. It flickers dimly amidst all the glare and noise. The people he encounters along the way give up but small secrets yet each revelation comes as a surprise that jolts us from our preconceived ideas and forces us to challenge our most secure notions. Barbarian Lost, Trudeau’s first book, is an insightful and witty account of the dynamic changes going on right now in China, as well as a look back into the deeper history of this highly codified society. On the ground with the women and men who make China tick, Trudeau shines new light on the country as only a traveller with his storytelling abilities could.