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China Questions: Critical Insights into a Rising Power

by Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi Harvard University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 352 pages
AU$54.99 NZ$56.51
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Many books offer information about China, but few make sense of what is truly at stake. The questions addressed in this unique volume provide a window onto the challenges China faces today and the uncertainties its meteoric ascent on the global horizon has provoked.

In only a few decades, the most populous country on Earth has moved from relative isolation to center stage. Thirty-six of the world’s leading China experts—all affiliates of the renowned Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University—answer key questions about where this new superpower is headed and what makes its people and their leaders tick. They distill a lifetime of cutting-edge scholarship into short, accessible essays about Chinese identity, culture, environment, society, history, or policy.

Can China’s economic growth continue apace? Can China embrace the sacrifices required for a clean environment? Will Taiwan reunite with the mainland? How do the Chinese people understand their position in today’s global marketplace? How do historical setbacks and traditional values inform China’s domestic and foreign policy? Some of the essays address issues of importance to China internally, revolving around the Communist Party’s legitimacy, the end of the one-child policy, and ethnic tensions. Others focus on China’s relationship with other nations, particularly the United States. If America pulls back from its Asian commitments, how will China assert its growing strength in the Pacific region?

China has already captured the world’s attention. The China Questions takes us behind media images and popular perceptions to provide insight on fundamental issues.

Introduction [Michael Szonyi]

I. Politics

1. Is the Chinese Communist Regime Legitimate? [Elizabeth J. Perry]

2. Can Fighting Corruption Save the Party? [Joseph Fewsmith]

3. Does Mao Still Matter? [Roderick MacFarquhar]

4. What Is the Source of Ethnic Tension in China? [Mark Elliott]

5. What Should We Know about Public Opinion in China? [Ya-Wen Lei]

6. What Does Longevity Mean for Leadership in China? [Arunabh Ghosh]

7. Can the Chinese Communist Party Learn from Chinese Emperors? [Yuhua Wang]

II. International Relations

8. Will China Lead Asia? [Odd Arne Westad]

9. How Strong Are China’s Armed Forces? [Andrew S. Erickson]

10. What Does the Rise of China Mean for the United States? [Robert S. Ross]

11. Is Chinese Exceptionalism Undermining China’s Foreign Policy Interests? [Alastair Iain Johnston]

12. (When) Will Taiwan Reunify with the Mainland? [Steven M. Goldstein]

13. Can China and Japan Ever Get Along? [Ezra F. Vogel]

III. Economy

14. Can China’s High Growth Continue? [Richard N. Cooper]

15. Is the Chinese Economy Headed toward a Hard Landing? [Dwight H. Perkins]

16. Will Urbanization Save the Chinese Economy or Destroy It? [Meg Rithmire]

17. Is China Keeping Its Promises on Trade? [Mark Wu]

18. How Do China’s New Rich Give Back? [Tony Saich]

19. What Can China Teach Us about Fighting Poverty? [Nara Dillon]

IV. Environment

20. Can China Address Air Pollution and Climate Change? [Michael B. McElroy]

21. Is There Environmental Awareness in China? [Karen Thornber]

V. Society

22. Why Does the End of the One-Child Policy Matter? [Susan Greenhalgh]

23. How Are China and Its Middle Class Handling Aging and Mental Health? [Arthur Kleinman]

24. How Important Is Religion in China? [James Robson]

25. Will There Be Another Dalai Lama? [Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp]

26. Does Law Matter in China? [William P. Alford]

27. Why Do So Many Chinese Students Come to the United States? [William C. Kirby]

VI. History and Culture

28. Who Is Confucius in Today’s China? [Michael Puett]

29. Where Did the Silk Road Come From? [Rowan Flad]

30. Why Do Intellectuals Matter to Chinese Politics? [Peter K. Bol]

31. Why Do Classic Chinese Novels Matter? [Wai-yee Li]

32. How Have Chinese Writers Imagined China’s Future? [David Der-wei Wang]

33. Has Chinese Propaganda Won Hearts and Minds? [Jie Li]

34. Why Is It Still So Hard to Talk about the Cultural Revolution? [Xiaofei Tian]

35. What Is the Future of China’s Past? [Stephen Owen]

36. How Has the Study of China Changed in the Last Sixty Years? [Paul A. Cohen]

Further Reading




‘‘Sound bites about China, spoken by either the media or politicians, can fall into the trap of oversimplification. This can result in assumptions that, like the tip of an iceberg, do not reveal the myriad complexities below the surface… [The China Questions] provides a more nuanced and accessible perspective of the issues China is facing, ranging from political and economic to cultural and societal.’‘ - Bernice Chan, The South China Morning Post

‘‘This collection is impressive for its comprehensiveness, with contributors providing numerous pointed observations… This is a highly informative, readable collection for scholars and nonscholars alike.’‘ - Publishers Weekly

‘‘This book cuts through the cacophony of information, misinformation, and nonsense on China that circulates in our modern world to give us reliable answers to crucial questions about one of the world’s most important nations. Written by a who’s-who of experts on a variety of topics, it’s also a pleasure to read. With stylish essays on everything from elite politics to the classical Chinese novel, it should be on the shelf of anyone seeking to understand this fast-rising superpower.’‘ - Ian Johnson, author of The Souls of China

‘‘The China Questions is packed with erudite yet accessible commentaries on issues ranging from literature to ethnic diversity. The topical reach is impressive; readers will come away with information concerning novel ways of thinking about everything from early philosophical traditions to modern visions of utopia and dystopia, from international relations to struggles for political legitimacy.’‘ - Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of China in the 21st Century
Jennifer Rudolph is Associate Professor of modern Chinese political history at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Michael Szonyi is Professor of Chinese History at Harvard University.