Category Archives: Book Reviews

Zhou Xin:Is China an Empire? – Han Shih Toh’s take on China’s growing presence on the world stage

It’s an intriguing proposition, but Toh’s book lacks a systematic approach and struggles to provide a convincing answer

Is China an Empire?

by Han Shih Toh

World Scientific

3 stars

The rise of China as an economic powerhouse, and increasingly a political and military one, is one of the most important global developments in the past three decades. The way that China, a vast country ruled by a communist party, grows and deals with other countries is set to affect everyone on this planet. Continue reading

China’s Evolving Space Capabilities

China’s Evolving Space Capabilities: Implications for U.S. Interests. By Mark A. Stokes and Dean Cheng. Washington, DC: Project 2049 Institute, April 26, 2012. 85 pages. Available on-line at Continue reading

Julia Lovell: The Cultural Revolution on Trial by Alexander Cook review – a sensational moment in Chinese history

Yao Wenyuan

Irrational premise … Yao Wenyuan, a writer and member of the Gang of Four, is tried in 1980. Photograph: Tang Likui/AP

China’s civil society has suffered badly in the political crackdown of the last four years: journalists are stifled by ever-tightening constraints; intellectuals are nervous of even saying the president’s name in company, for fear of being seen as denigrating the cult of “Uncle Xi”. Above all, the Chinese Communist party (CCP) has rained down blows on the rule of law. Legal personnel have been held for months in “black” prisons without access to counsel and been shackled, tortured, their family members harassed. On 14 January this year, China’s chief justice aggressively emphasised that the law was subservient to party writ: “We should resolutely resist erroneous influence from the west: ‘constitutional democracy’, ‘separation of powers’ and ‘independence of the judiciary’. We must make clear our stand and dare to show the sword.” Continue reading

Tienchi Martin-Liao : Two Forgotten Spies: Bianca Tam and Antonio Riva

Foreigners in China, in the mid-twentieth century, were active in the resistance against the burgeoning Communist regime. The stories of two Italian spies have been largely lost in history. Tienchi Martin-Liao seeks to shine light on the pair’s forgotten histories by retelling the story their opposite fates.

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Bradley Winterton: Beyond China: a new category

China and the World by Zhu ShoutongThis new book, from a distinguished professor at the University of Macau, argues that a concept such as “Chinese literature” is tricky and also outmoded because it’s frequently used as a synonym for “literature from China.” Continue reading

The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao

Ian Johnson. Pantheon, $28.95 (464p) ISBN 978-1-101-87005-1

Johnson, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has lived in China on and off over 30 years, reports on his six years of research into the reemergence of religion in China. Continue reading

Noelle Mateer: Eve of a Hundred Midnights

Melville Jacoby is the cool uncle many of us wish we had. Or, rather – he’s the cool uncle many of us wish to be. Either way, the globetrotting war correspondent has many of the traits of cool uncles: Incredible stories, a sense of humor, badassery. Eve of A Hundred Midnights, written by Jacoby’s grand-nephew Bill Lascher, is his story.  Continue reading

Aram Bakshian Jr.: China and America, and the romance of history’s oddest couple

By John Pomfret

Henry Holt, $40, 693 pages Continue reading