John K. Fairbank (1907–1991) was an American sinologist. His final book was China: A New History.

History on the Wing

Golden Inches is a charming memoir of an American couple who built up the YMCA in Chengtu and Chungking. Their careers on America’s farthest Western cultural frontier in Szechwan province give us a sense of the day-to-day texture of Chinese-American relations during the golden age between 1905 and 1935. America …

From the Ming to Deng Xiaoping

When I began teaching Chinese history at Harvard in 1936 my first students turned out to be the brightest I would ever have—Theodore White as an undergraduate and Mary Clabaugh as a Ph.D. candidate. Mary Clabaugh was a Vassar graduate from Tuscaloosa who came to study international history but turned …

Why China’s Rulers Fear Democracy

Government in China is still elitist, not electoral. Behind the Tiananmen massacre of June 1989 lies the continuing modern conflict between the two wings of China’s political elite—the power-holders over the Party and army, on the one hand, and the intellectuals and student trainees for government service on the other hand.

Keeping up with the New China

The Chinese modernization effort of recent years is on so titanic a scale that it is hard to grasp. Can China switch from a command economy to a free market in goods, capital, people, and even ideas? If so, can Party dictatorship survive? A period of railway and city building, …

Roots of Revolution

The books by Frank Ching and Zhang Xianliang are vastly different in content, aim, and style, as opposite as yang and yin. Yet each casts light on the Cultural Revolution. Considered together, they may even begin to explain it. Mao’s venomous “class struggle” against his own Communist party’s elite in …

Born Too Late

The Last Emperor is a spectacular film photographed in brilliant color. It is also a moral drama with controversial political overtones of great ambiguity. It spans sixty years of history, between the Manchu dynasty’s final decrepitude and the disaster of the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic. It leaves us …

The Chinese Behemoth

The fact that history, like childhood, helps to account for what happens later doesn’t do us much good in the case of China, since Chinese history remains largely unavailable. The apparent success of the “Big Thirteenth” Congress of the Chinese Communist party in October 1987 doesn’t explain the mystery of …

Look Back in Anger

All of the four books under review examine the nature and the aftereffects of Mao’s revolution, which attacked special privilege under the battle cry of “class struggle.” His populist egalitarianism took as a target even the intellectual elite, who are so necessary to modernization. Since Mao’s death in 1976, Deng …

Mission Impossible

John Hersey’s The Call is an epitaph for 120 years of Protestant missions in China. From 1830 to 1950 the China missions had a steadily growing place in American public sentiment. At the turn of the century John R. Mott of the Student Volunteer Movement for overseas missions called for …

Utopian Fevers

The heart of China’s twentieth-century revolution has been the revival of the Chinese state. Until the 1890s the Chinese empire had remained the most durable of the universal kingships of the ancient world. Its transformation into the state now known as the People’s Republic has left the Chinese public saddled …

Blind Obedience

Son of the Revolution is actually three stories in one—first, a graphic I-was-there account of what it was like to grow up during the Cultural Revolution; second, a cliffhanger love story with a happy ending; and third, a poignant analysis of how Chinese people have tried and failed, and tried …

The Real Stuff

The news that Mr. Reagan’s “peacekeeper” in Japanese waters is to be a better armed Japan makes one think back to the half century of Japan’s military expansion from 1894 to 1945. Fortunately a nation that has beaten its swords into Toyotas seems unlikely to revert to militarism as a …

‘Red’ or ‘Expert’?

Mao’s last decade was as full of confusion and surprises as the 1790s in France. In size and complexity the Cultural Revolution was of course a much bigger event than the French Revolution. At any rate it will be studied from many angles for a long time to come. Probably …

China on the Rocks

Our relations with China are notoriously subject to swings of opinion. Idealization and disillusion, euphoria and cynicism, follow each other as though our national psychology were regulated by some manic-depressive clock. The current trend toward disillusion about the quality of life in China is no doubt part of a cycle, …

His Man in Canton

In the Chinese united front of the mid-1920s, the Soviet agent Borodin has been a protean figure. Bringing Leninist skills, arms, and advisers to Canton, he seemed to be the priceless ingredient that finally catalyzed Sun Yat-sen’s revolution. Borodin drafted the Kuomintang’s constitution and taught it how to be revolutionary …

Drop by Drop

Orville Schell’s deft reporting catches a Chinese yearning for American things and ways that many Americans will encounter in times to come. It is an aspect of Chinese life, however, that needs to be kept in a well-informed perspective, lest we mistake it for a wave of the future. China’s …

Dangerous Acquaintances

The American-Chinese love/hate affair has oscillated over a wide arc, sometimes appearing to be a romance based on the usual parallel illusions, at other times a realistic marriage of convenience, and sometimes a case of mutual fright owing to misperception of each other’s menace. Two cultures that have as much …

The New Two China Problem

As we enjoy the Chinese-American honeymoon this time, it seems fitting that we look before and after. Knowing the periodic Marxist inebriation to be expected of one partner and the whilom anti-red frigidity of the other, can we expect it to last? Have Jimmy Carter and Teng Hsiao-p’ing tied a …

Digging Out Doug

Dugout Doug, as some GIs called him, was actually brave beyond belief, courting death hundreds of times to set his troops an example. He was in fact our greatest soldier, a field general in three wars over a third of a century (1918-1951) who commanded more troops in battle with …

Solving the China Problem

Both the persistent charm and the occasional hostility of American-Chinese relations come from our cultural separation, our subtly different expectations and reactions. Chou En-lai and Henry Kissinger, as supra-cultural negotiators, could bridge those differences with more success than we can expect from our Congress, bound as it is to the …

Mrs. M. and the Masses

One flaw in a human rights foreign policy is that human rights are not as pervasive as human righteousness, and the self-esteemed revolutionaries who monopolize righteousness in Russia and China will reject American tutelage. But if the Kremlin leaders do it a bit defensively as Europeans once removed, the same …

The Confidence Man

Peking charmed its Western residents early in this century because it had been a capital city of non-Chinese conquerors and Chinese collaborators for most of a thousand years. Founded in 947 as a capital of the Khitan Mongols’ Liao dynasty, it had been used similarly by the Tungusic Chin dynasty …

On the Death of Mao

The word came ominously: “Power fight is on in China. 900 million mourning Mao” (Daily News, New York, September 10). The reporting of the death of Mao told us as much about ourselves as about China: 1) Good news is not news; only when Mao dies can we devote much …

The New Order in Asia

Europe’s colonial expansion was a 500-year wonder, but today the major nations of Asia, modernizing late upon the ruins of ancient empires, are reasserting their claims to be of central importance. Europe’s most dynamic product, the US, has to live with the older and bigger cultures of China and India …

A Special Supplement: The Meaning of Vietnam

In early May, The New York Review asked some of its contributors to write on the meaning of the Vietnam war and its ending. They were asked to consider the questions of the responsibility for the war; its effect on American life, politics, and culture, and the US position in …