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Customer Review

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read!, 29 Sept. 2008
This review is from: The Penguin History of Modern China: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850 - 2008: The Fall and Rise of a Great Power, 1850-2009 (Hardcover)
I wanted to learn about China's modern political history in light of the fact that Beijing was hosting the Olympic Games this year. I stumbled across this book by Johnathan Fenby at my local library and was really quite impressed with what I read. Fenby has written the book in such a way that you can't put it down until you've read an entire chapter! I feel this book has a number of attributes which i'll speak of below:

1) This book is accessible to all: to academics and readers with a general interest in China. This is only the case because Fenby has got the balance right: key events in China's history haven't been talked about in vast amounts of detail to bore the reader, but at the same time the book isn't oversimplified (and in fact is highly informative, as Fenby employs a wide range of resources and statistics).
2) The book is up-to-date. Fenby talks about modern issues in China such as Hu Jintao's vision of a "Peaceful rise in a harmonious world" and China's absorption of huge quantites of metals and oil which is leading to price rises in these commodities. Up-to-date statistics from 2007 and 2008 are included.
3) I think the book is balanced: Fenby doesn't shy away from recounting the full extent of the horrors of the Great Leap Forward, but at the same time puts across clearly how proud Chinese people are today of their country's achievements which have come through economic reform with the CCP at the helm.
4) The book is complete: no major event is left out: Fenby talks about practically all the major events in China's modern political history (from the loss of Hong Kong in the Opium Wars of 1840 to the fall of the last imperial dynasty, to the rise of both Nationalism and Communism in China; China's brief experience of western-style democracy and elections in 1912; War with Japan; the ascendency of Mao and the CCP; economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989; and China under the leadership of modern CCP members such as Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao). Fenby also mentions how China's international relations with the West (namely the US), Japan and Russia have evolved since the fall of the Qing dynasty.

Before reading Fenby's book, I had read Jung Chang's "Mao The Unknown Story" and felt Fenby's book was an excellent accomplimant: Chang's book gives you a detailed insight into China under Mao, whilst Fenby's book informs the reader of China before Mao and what happened in China after Mao (which has brought China to where it is today: a global economic power).

A thoroughly good read, I look forward to finding books of such a high standard covering political histories for differnt parts of the world.
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