“Knowing about China,” Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
and Jeffrey Wasserstrom
note in the preface to China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know
(Oxford University Press, 2018), is today “an essential part of being an engaged citizen" (p. xvii), and this is a difficult statement to disagree with. Yet as the authors also acknowledge, explaining ‘what everyone needs to know’ about the country is a daunting proposition, particularly at this highly unpredictable point in world history.
Yet this fully revised edition of China in the 21st Century
tackles the major issues head-on, interweaving context from China’s recent and more distant pasts with present-day insights, and illuminating events, figures and periods little known outside China but of vital importance within the country. Conversely, the co-authors also expertly puncture many of our preconceived ideas about China’s past and present, not shirking the kind of big questions which would have many commentators or academics fleeing for the hills, from Confucius to the Cultural Revolution, Mao to Market-Leninism.
Seasoned veterans and novices to Chinese affairs alike will learn a lot from this book which, supplemented by a rich trove of references for further reading, offers new ways of looking at a too-often-misunderstood country.
Ed Pulford is a postdoctoral researcher at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.