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Chinese Whispers: Why Everything You've Heard About China is Wrong Hardcover – 10 Oct 2013

19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; 1 edition (10 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297868446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297868446
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.7 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 209,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Chu's smart, iconoclastic portrait dismantles seven misconceptions - or "whispers" - to let in light on a heterogeneous nation about which it is impossible to generalise. (Philip Maughan NEW STATESMAN)

Book Description

An iconoclastic portrait of modern China and a counterblast to Western assumptions.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Troy Parfitt on 30 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have an author-friend who's putting together a book about Chinese myths. I've proofread a few chapters and once recommended calling the effort Everything You Know about China is Wrong, so when I found an article from the London-based Independent about a book by Ben Chu called Chinese Whispers: Why Everything You've Heard about China is Wrong, I had to buy it.

Mostly, I was glad I did. Chinese Whispers is pretty good, at least I think so, because I make many of the same or similar arguments in my own book. Ben read widely and I benefited from his research, especially about recent events. In seven chapters, he takes on seven large myths (e.g. China has an ancient and fixed culture; the Chinese are irredeemably racist; the Chinese don't want freedom, etc.) and many attendant myths. My favourite chapter was `China has the world's finest education system,' (I have a background in education and was part of a Chinese education system for 10 years). I also enjoyed `The Chinese have reinvented capitalism,' partly because I'm not versed in economics and am always interested in learning about how government policy affects the economy and people's livelihoods. Plus, I'm familiar with Chinese venality and mismanagement, so the charge that China's economic model is broken resonated.

Each chapter follows a format: the myth (or whisper) is laid out as per common belief whereupon it's dismantled, sometimes to great effect, sometimes not. However, before I start with the inevitable criticisms, I'd like to add that I particularly liked Ben's style of leaving no "expert" untouched. Ben illustrates that a host of China commentators (e.g. Mark Twain, W.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ben Chu is a pretty interesting author to write on China - the product of a mixed Chinese British marriage, with lots of relatives in China and with a sufficiently broad perspective to be able to discuss both the perceptions of the country in the 'West' as well as the situation on the ground.

The book is organized around whispers - for lack of a better term stereotypes - that are held about China and the Chinese. These range from the obsession with learning, to the unflinching acceptance of backbreaking work, to the complete ambivalence towards democracy.

The author then examines each one in turn, usually starting with the historical development of the particular world-view (often being based on little more than guesswork of people never having set foot in the country). The next step is a critical examination and debunking of the 'whisper', with a more balanced view being placed in its stead.

This makes the book relatively refreshing to read and while some sources get used in many whispers, the debunking generally always contains well argued logic and to the point examples casting more than mere doubt on the widely held stereotypes.

If you are interested in more than just the odd sound bite about the country (that can be regurgitated at will to people equally modestly informed) this is the book to go for. It provides a more solid understanding and delivers in spades. It reads well with How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region and will help provide you with the insight necessary to engage with China and the Chinese more fruitfully.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mister B. on 4 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Two recent books give a good idea of how we think about China today:

“ When China rules the world, the End of the Western World and the Birth of a new global order ”, Martin Jacques.
“ China’s Silent Army, The Pioneers, Traders, Fixers and Workers who are remaking the world in Beijing’s image “, Juan Pablo Cardenal & Heriberto Araujo.

Both are Non Fiction & seem well documented.
(I particularly loved the second title, where 2 Spanish journalists travelled the – developing – world to show China’s dirty hands & faces.)

Now, do you also have that feeling, like, China’s going to Dominate the world because they have more than a lot of money & the Giant is going to Rule with very little moral or ethical principles.

Time to read Ben Chu’s ‘Chinese Whispers’.
It’s so human to think in cliché’s, stereotypes & building myths from only 1 or just a few sides of the story.
While reading his book I got the feeling, Ben Chu became tired of all those prejudices ‘whispering’ around & started collecting – facts.

His way of doing this is original.
He uses the following chapters, starting from well-known clichés & stereo types:

China has an Ancient & Fixed Culture
Chinese are Racist
Chinese don’t want freedom
China has the World’s best education system
Chinese Live to Work
Chinese have re-invented Capitalism
China will rule the world

He starts every chapter with confirming the cliché. And when you read that, it all sounds very plausible, logic & real.
But next, the biggest part of every chapter is build up with facts and figures that confront you with a different world.
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