China is in the news on a daily basis- trade relations, human rights, territorial expansion, Taiwan, and recently Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate his power. How much do you actually know though about China and why they are the way they are? Understanding China: A Guide to China’s Economy, History, and Political Culture by John Bryan Starr is a great single volume on the country. Starr is a lecturer on China and a past president of both the Yale China Association and the China Institute in New York City.
If you want to understand the underpinnings of all those news stories this is the book to read. It covers a wide range of topics including the party-state, economy, “centrifugal forces of regionalism”, rule of law, rural vs urban, environmental challenges, and education.
I have read Understanding China on several occasions and each time taken away something new to think about, perhaps the most important idea being the overwhelming fear by the ruling Communist Party of social upheaval and the need for harmony at all costs.
To understand China is not necessarily to love it, but understanding China is a prerequisite for dealing with it effectively … And, given its size and its potential, and the degree to which the rest of the world has become linked with it both economically and politically, there is no avoiding the necessity of dealing with China in the years ahead.