Roderick Macfarquhar is Leroy B. Williams Research Professor of History and Political Science at Harvard. His latest publication as editor and contributor is The Politics of China: Sixty Years of the People’s Republic of China. (June 2017)
The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao
by Ian Johnson
If there were just one Chinese in the world, he could be the lonely sage contemplating life and nature whom we come across on the misty mountains of Chinese scrolls. If there were two Chinese in the world, a man and a woman, lo, the family system is born. And if there were three Chinese, they would form a tight-knit, hierarchically organized bureaucracy. But how many Chinese would there have to be to generate a religion? It could be just one—that Daoist sage in the mountains—but in reality it takes a village, according to Ian Johnson in his wonderful new book, The Souls of China. Chinese religion, Johnson writes, had little to do with adherence to a particular faith.
Chinese Politics in the Era of Xi Jinping: Renaissance, Reform, or Retrogression?
by Willy Wo-Lap Lam
In the almost one-hundred-year existence of the Chinese Communist Party, its current general secretary, Xi Jinping, is only the second leader clearly chosen by his peers. The first was Mao Zedong. Both men beat out the competition, and thus secured a legitimacy their predecessors lacked. Why was Xi chosen?
Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World
by Nicholas Griffin
For Richard Nixon’s foreign policy, 1971 was the best of years and the worst of years. He revealed his opening to China, but he connived at genocide in East Pakistan. Fortunately for him, the world marveled at the one, but was largely ignorant of the other. The two events were …
In the 1950s, the late John King Fairbank, the dean of modern China studies at Harvard, used to tell us graduate students a joke about the allegation that a group of red-leaning foreign service officers and academics—the four Johns—had “lost” China: John Paton Davies, John Stewart Service, John Carter Vincent, …
In Kashgar’s largest bazaar a few years ago, I spotted a pencil holder sporting an iconic Cultural Revolution image: Mao Zedong and Marshal Lin Biao smiling together. But Mao’s personally chosen heir apparent had been a nonperson since 1971, when he allegedly godfathered an abortive plot to kill the Chairman …
Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–1962
by Frank Dikötter
When the first waves of Chinese graduate students arrived on American campuses in the early 1980s, they were excited at entering an unfettered learning environment. After the recent ravages of the Cultural Revolution, political science students had few inhibitions about studying what had gone wrong in China as they were …
The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1781–1997
by Piers Brendon
Piers Brendon has written a splendid popular history of the British Empire, illustrating yet again the continuing nostalgia for and ambivalence about the glory days of the United Kingdom, when it ruled a quarter of the globe: fifty-eight countries, four hundred million people, fourteen million square miles. One way to …