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Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Modern China is a fascinating subject in its own right. China, in general, has been one of the most intriguing countries in the world for most of its history. The most populous nation, China is an heir to an ancient civilization that at one point surpassed all the others in the world in terms of cultural and technological achievement. Yet, over the centuries that civilization had fallen behind others and only in recent decades has China started to approach again its erstwhile status of a great power. This raise has been rather gradual, and with many setbacks has taken the better part of the last hundred years. The Modern China is a work in progress, and this very short introduction provides one of the best overviews of this process. The book covers most of the Chinese twentieth century history, and it's noteworthy in that it doesn't see the arrival of the communists in 1949 so much as a clean break from the past as a continuation of the previous attempts at modernization by the Nationalists and their predecessors. The communist rule is also approached more critically, somewhat downplaying the extent of the most egregious years of the Cultural Revolution, and emphasizing the discontinuities within the Communist regime and its policies. In particular, the author argues that some of the economic advances in the recent years can be traced to the set of reforms that started in the late 70s.

One of the strengths of this book is the attention that it pays to the cultural as well as technological and economic advances. Since most people in the West are at least somewhat familiar with some of the most prominent recent Chinese cinematographic achievements, this provides an accessible connection to the cultural trends in China these days.

The weakness of the book is its lack of any deeper exploration of the human rights abuses and the very serious suppression of dissent that has plagued China for the better part of the past hundred years under different regimes. The abuse has been particularly systematic and ruthless under the Communists, and it is the ugly flip side of the breakneck progress that China has been enjoying in the recent decades.

Overall, this is a very informative and accessible book on Modern China that is well suited for the general readership. It is not a dry scholarly work, and it even indulges in imaginative allegories and analyses on an occasion. It is well worth reading for anyone who is interested in what forces have shaped the Modern China.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2010
China is rapidly mounting headlines of late and it's currently rumored by Economists and other analysts that it is on the verge of becoming a new world superpower rivaling the USA.

Because of such talk I picked up the book. I knew nothing about China. Nothing about its complicated history, its society, the evolution and nature of Chinese Communism, and so on and so forth.

This book is a good start. It guides you through the subject matter and the author - Rana Mitter - knows his stuff.

In fact my only gripe with the book is the way it is arranged and divided up. He splits the book into about 5 chapters. The first two set it up, then you get 3 concise analyses of China's economy, society and culture, and a one and a half page conclusion.

The conclusion was very abrupt and I felt like there should be more to know (particularly about China's political make-up) but when you think about it - the book has succeeded in its purpose of providing a 'very short introduction' to the subject and given me incentive to research further. I am now about to read Spence's Search for Modern China, and am looking into the further readings that Mitter has suggested at the end of the book.

A satisfying piece.
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on 13 February 2015
An excellent introduction to a very complex country and subject. This was one of the books recommended by our Tutor for a WEA class on China - the last 100 years, and it does what it says in the title. A readable book which is sufficient for my purpose, but is suitable as an introduction if a reader wanted to get the groundwork in before reading something 'heavier'.
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on 28 October 2013
I was attracted to the book after I was privileged to hear the author talking about the war between China and Japan. The clarity and deep understanding he showed in the talk was reflect also in this book. Clear, eloquent and deep but easy to follow.

Informative and an easy read.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 16 December 2011
A very readable and first class introduction to China.I would thoroughly recommend this book as a starting point to a more detailed study of this fascinating country.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2013
I would strongly recommend not buying this book as an introduction to Chinese history. The narrative was dry, pretentious and lacked any meaningful structure. Having spent four years at university studying history I can safely say that this is a fine example of how to turn people off of history. Primary material would have made this book a great deal more interesting; this book may be ok in the eyes of academics, but as an 'introduction' to the topic, it is bland and I couldn't finish it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2012
The author does a pukka job of explaining the modern situation of this often enigmatic nation. Though Chinese characters look almost magical and mysterious to many Westerners they are usually about mundane things such as washing powder and the latest gossip. This book helps to demystify China and shows that the Chinese are not so very different from the rest of us. All in all an excellent little book to help understand China.
By way of contrast I suggest reading Chinese Sketches: Life in 19th Century China as it will show how China has changed in the last hundred years or so.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2013
I found that this book was very interesting. I think that it is both compelling and intriguing in the way that it shows how china has modernized throughout the many era,emperors and rulers. This book was very factual and has taught me a lot, this book is very reliable
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on 9 May 2015
Ok
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2014
Good
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