This Very Short Introduction offers an indispensable starting point for anyone who needs to quickly know the themes and controversies that have shaped modern China. Prize-winning author and scholar Rana Mitter examines the modern history, politics, economy, and thriving cultural scene of contemporary China, and its relations with the wider world.
This lively guide covers a range of social issues from the decline of footbinding and the position of women in society, to the influence of television and film, and the role of the overseas Chinese diaspora. It covers many prominent figures as well, such as the Communist leaders, the last emperors, and prominent writers and artists throughout China's history.
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©2008 Oxford University Press; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
This is a basic overview of China's history. For those who are looking for detailed account of China you will find this a bit shallow.
While breezing through important points in China's history the author does make an effort to sift propaganda away from fact and gives you the foundation for further research.
This reads more like a textbook than anything else so steer clear if you're looking for a thrilling epic.
The book covers events roughly from the Qing dynasty all the way up to the Beijing Olympics.
All-in-all, not bad.
Not a particularly well written or well read history, came across to me as quite drab and lifeless, lacking any vivid detail of people or events and somewhat distracted by esoteric debates over what "modernity" means (who cares). Reader speaks beautiful Chinese but is not an accomplished narrator.
If you're looking for a clear introduction to modern China, this isn't it. Instead, it's an academic paper about the esoteric question of whether China can be called "modern," whether it has now achieved "modernity." That being said, if one can get passed the constant references to "modern" and "modernity," this book provides an overview of China's history during the 20th century. Conversely, for a fascinating introduction to modern China, listen to Rob Gifford's "China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power" here on Audible.com.
This was a fantastic short version of what I wanted. Now I know exactly what I want to research further. Nancy Wu is awesome. Thank you.
"Interesting but frustrating"
To be fair, this book owns up to being a “very short” introduction, so you can’t complain if you’re left feeling you ordered too many prawn crackers and not enough pork dumplings. The real problem is that, despite hearing a bunch of facts I didn’t know, I was left little the wiser about the book’s central premise: it’s one of those ‘land of contrasts’ accounts with no clear thesis. On the one hand, Dr Mitter’s definition of modernity seems to be ‘the values held by us liberal western academics’, and he patronisingly wonders how fast China is attaining them. On the other, he tends to pussyfoot about the CCP’s failings, as though he’d really like be welcomed back there. For example, the consequences of two of the 20th-century’s worst atrocities, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, get little more than a mention. (And I say this as someone who was hoping to learn more of the positive stuff about China you normally hear only from people who've worked there).
The audiobook’s not helped a lot, in all honesty, by the choice of narrator, who often sounds as though she cut her teeth on advertising voiceovers. When she senses that something is to be disapproved of, she might be describing those awkward tell-tale stains; while anything we’re to acclaim is expressed in a feline purr as though she were bigging up a detergent. On the occasion when she starts to sound like a hectoring prison-camp guard, it’s hard not to laugh. She might argue that she’s not much helped by Dr Mitter’s prose style; if you’ve ever read a book with more sentences starting ‘However, ...’, you’re unlucky.
In short: buy it if you need a quick intro to China on the flight to Beijing, but otherwise go for something more meaty that won’t leave you wanting to start over again.
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