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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best comprehensive book on China's current history
This book covers everything you really need to know of how China came to be from the start of its communism with Mao to the modern day market economy. It shows the clear progression of how events triggered each other and how the main personalities shaped the present. It shows how the Tiananmen masssacres led to the market economy that you have now and the reason is not as...
Published on 9 April 2007 by ai_inventor

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Can't see the Wood for the Trees
I was very disappointed with this book. Gittings clearly is an expert on his subject. But he writes for an equally-expert audience. This book is not for the interested man in the street looking for the big picture. There is a huge amount of detail about political machinations and the internal debates about the direction of socialism in China, but no proper context...
Published on 15 Jan. 2008 by Peter B


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best comprehensive book on China's current history, 9 April 2007
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This review is from: The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market (Paperback)
This book covers everything you really need to know of how China came to be from the start of its communism with Mao to the modern day market economy. It shows the clear progression of how events triggered each other and how the main personalities shaped the present. It shows how the Tiananmen masssacres led to the market economy that you have now and the reason is not as idealistic as you want to believe. It has evrything from Chiang Kai-shek to the enviromental problems currently faced and it's all beautifully written.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Can't see the Wood for the Trees, 15 Jan. 2008
By 
Peter B (London England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market (Paperback)
I was very disappointed with this book. Gittings clearly is an expert on his subject. But he writes for an equally-expert audience. This book is not for the interested man in the street looking for the big picture. There is a huge amount of detail about political machinations and the internal debates about the direction of socialism in China, but no proper context. There are frequent references to important events without explanation of what they are. Timelines are also very confusing - hardly anything is presented in chronological order, the only help in this respect being a 4-page Chronology in the Appendix. There is also no clear explanation of how China is governed (in particular how leaders and the ruling group are chosen), how decisions are made, or the key policies of successive leaders/governments. Perhaps what this book needs is not a 4-page Chronology at the back but a 40-page summary at the beginning outlining the key stages in the development of China during this period, which would put all the detailed material into context.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and Comprehensive, 3 July 2007
This review is from: The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market (Paperback)
This book is an incredibly detailed and in-depth look at the political and social history of China from the beginning of Chairman Mao's premiership to the present day, delving into each segment of China's political history with painstaking attention to detail.

The result is sometimes heavy and there are undoubtedly sections of this book that will weigh down all but the most hardened political animals. The research that John Gittings has provided in this book, however, is startling, and very, very impressive.

The best attribute of this book, however, is it's balance. It is not a pro-communist, one-sided travel brochure, neither is it the usual Western anti-Chinese propaganda, rather, it is a balanced and reasonably fair look at both the positive effects of Mao's cultural revolution, the fantastic liberation of the peasants, but also the current bureaucracy of the CCCP, and the horror that was the Tiannemen Square massacre. Most of this book is colourful, interesting and informative, particularly the sections that focus on various Chinese literature and poetry. The description of the USA's cowardly and disgraceful attack on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999 also makes the blood boil. Events like these help show just how spiteful and antagonistic American foreign policy is and always has been, and such events are a shameful reminder of the cretinous hypocrisy of the West.

There is also a great deal of humour in this book. Demonstrations against the US bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade saw people carrying placards which contained some truly amusing slogans such as "I'd rather die of starvation than eat a McDonalds, I'd rather die of thirst than drink Coca-Cola." This is not only amusing, but also very encouraging - a positive reminder that there are still people in this world who are against the three sickening evils of Americanisation, Imperialism, and Capitalism. Other funny moments include detailed descriptions of the various sniping and verbal sparring that took place between various high profile members of the CCCP in the wake of Mao's death. With a dry sense of humour, Gittings describes a pettiness and bureaucracy that is verging on the comical, in a party that lost a lot of it's initial goals after the death of Mao. There is also much evidence of the deadpan Chinese humour, particularly from peasants who describe a local businessman as 'Mr.Five Dollars every time he opens the door'.

This book is not just for politic enthusiasts, or ardent China enthusiasts, but for anyone who enjoys a challenging, informative and frequently amusing read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written piece of modern history, 12 Mar. 2012
By 
A. J. Smith (UK) - See all my reviews
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While the first impressions of the title may lead one to expect a sociological analysis of modern China, The Changing Face of China is as much a well written history on modern China as a study of China's extraordinary evolution.
Though the history contained within this study is more concise than in the other China books out there, it is nonetheless a decent study of modern China with many details to be found that were missing in other books.
The actual namesake of the book, China's changing face, isn't realized until the last two chapters, which deals in great length with many of the phenomena any follower of current affairs could not possibly be unaware of with regard to China; the rapid rise of consumerism, environmental degradation, widespread corruption, health scares, mega projects, etc.
The book also contains an interesting insight into separatism in Tibet and Xinjiang, the return of Hong Kong, and the continued stalemate over Taiwan.
While this may shed very little new light for any experienced China hands, it is nonetheless a well written book and a pleasurable way to revise one's knowledge of China.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dry - and with a hidden agenda, 27 Dec. 2007
This review is from: The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market (Paperback)
The author of this book clearly knows what he is talking about. His familiarity with the PRC stretches back several decades, and he quotes extensively from a wide range of sources in Chinese. Since I specialise in ancient China, I cannot lay claim to any authority in the field of modern history, but, nevertheless, I think a few remarks about this book are in place.

For my taste, G.'s narrative remains far too much within the ideological framework of Communist discourse. It creates the impression that not much else happened in China after 1949 except of discussions about the right path to Communism within the Party leadership. Sometimes, though deplorably rarely, we read about people's reactions to these discussions, but the top-down approach to history is never abandoned throughout the book.

While ideological and power political struggles were certainly of primary importance, the disruptive and at the same time repressive impact Communist ideology had on the population right into the 1980s merits closer attention. As it is, the book is neither fish nor flesh. For a social history, it simply does not say enough about society, and for a political history, it is not sufficiently systematic. For example, it does not even describe the constitutional and institutional foundations of the PRC, its formal and informal power structures or its official and civil organisations. The focus on ideological discourse also impairs the books readbility since the constant regurgitation of garbled Party prose makes absolutely dire reading.

However, there is a more serious point to discuss. I strongly suspect that G. consciously pursues an apologetic intention and tries to play down the unimaginably devastating effects of Communist rule. For instance, as an illustration of how improvements in sanitation and health care raised people's life expectancy immediately after the Communist takeover, we learn that "[t]he mortality rate fell from 25 per thousand before 1949 to 17 in 1951 (and 10.8 by 1957)" (p. 23). It is hardly surprising that a society ravaged by war such as China before 1949 should have a higher mortality rate than in peacetime. To be in a position to gauge the effect of new health measures, it would be necessary to identify the places where they were actually carried out and calculate their effects in comparison with other, neglected locations. But it is even more conspicuous that G.'s comparison of mortality rates stops with 1957, since mortality rose again dramatically in the following years as a result of the so-called "Great Leap Forward". This omission may not be accidental, as G.'s treatment of the "Great Leap" shows. His narrative of this nationwide mass-mobilisation campaign focuses on rather harmless-looking inner-party struggles about the proper Socialist economic policy for China. In the section devoted to the "Great Leap", he does not lose a single word about the things that happened outside the Party offices and cadre gatherings. He remains completely silent about the 20-30 million people who died as a result of these ideological disagreements within the Party leadership (pp. 32-35). Later, though, G. does acknowledge that there were "more than 20 million 'excess deaths'" (p. 121), and he mentions that as the result of a local famine "out of a population of 380,000, more than 60,000 died" during this period (p. 126). At some other point, however, he cannot restrain himself from applauding the "Great Leap" for "absorb[ing] the energy and mobiliz[ing] the enthusiasm of a large activist minority" (p. 64). One just wonders whether all this "energy" and "enthusiasm" was cleverly employed in the smelting of useless iron and other mass campaigns that diverted vital parts of the labour force from agriculture and thereby caused widespread starvation.

In sum, although it would be difficult to sustain the claim that G. twists the truth or lies by omission in this particular case, he certainly scatters crucial information in such a way over the entire book that a reader who lacks familiarity with the topic and does not pay close attention might easily get a completely skewed impression of what was actually going on. This is, by the way, a very common technique in ancient Chinese historiography used to achieve obfuscation without having to resort to outright lies.

In a long and tortuous endnote to his "Introduction", G. takes pain to assure his readers that he is aware of the human costs of Communist rule but will nevertheless not daemonise the PRC or its leadership. Symptomatically, however, he also states "that Mao was an original thinker whose arguments should be taken seriously" (p. 17). Although he seems to feel slightly embarrassed about it, it appears that G. is one of the last believers in Maoism - and it shows in his book.
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, 10 Aug. 2007
This review is from: The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market (Paperback)
this book is an interesting read. One could almost say it's pornography for anti-american rascists and their conspiracey-minded rantings....such as the Belgrade embassey incident being a delliberrret attack (why on earth?) How ever it does deal with the so called 'liberation' (from whom pray tell) in an almost even handed manner. A better book wiuld be 'Mao' the biography whic captures the communits party in China and Mao as they really were...shallow oportunists who hid behind the lives of better men i.e allied and kaputang chinese soldiers. In this bok however, Mao's cunning is disguised as sainntly helpfullness instead of cold blooded ruthlessness. I recommend this book as a study of cunning and deceit which would make any lunatic proud.
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The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market
The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market by John Gittings (Paperback - 6 July 2006)
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