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Contemporary China (Contemporary States and Societies series) Kindle Edition
|Length: 233 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled|
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Kerry Brown is one of the West's leading interpreters of modern China and his latest book should be required reading for students and others with a non-professional interest in the second largest economy in the world. His writing style is easy to read though the amount of background information that he lines up behind his points sometimes creates unusually long sentences. He does not beat the reader over the head with graphs, charts and statistics but there are just enough of these in the book to illustrate the narrative properly. He manages to maintain a neutral though realistic tone while dealing with some of the unpleasant events that have happened there since the CCP became the government.
The book is divided in to eight chapters each of which looks at one aspect of modern China from its history, to its politics, to its economy and to its people. There are insights in each chapter that will surprise even experienced students of China - this student, for example, had not realized how the rise of China's modern economy can be traced directly to the implementation of the Household Responsibility System, with which Deng Xiaoping replaced the grossly inefficient communes of the Maoist era.
The author's fluency in Mandarin and intense familiarity with the culture is evident in his description of the differences between the language used by the 'common' people and when used to make important statements by high-ranking officials of the CCP: "eloquent (but) devoid of day-to-day meaning". His analysis of the Party and how it governs China, in chapters 3 and 4, is concise and informative.
My only criticism is that there is no mention of the present or potential role of religion (Taoist,Buddhist or Christian) in the chapters on Society and Culture (chapters 6 and 7). As the author points out, the ruling ideology is based on materialism and scientific knowledge thus presumably at least 80 million party members subscribe to that same view. We know though that Christianity, for example, is apparently growing quickly in China perhaps in revolt against the fundamental materialism of the governing classes and the sterile consumerist life-style it has created. Possibly this is a separate topic.
The Conclusion points to an interesting and possibly hazardous time ahead. Will the country's adaptation to developing internal and external forces be a gradual one, crisis-led, or "Big Bang"? No matter where we live in the world, our lives will be affected by the choices China makes.