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.
 (January 2018)


The Red Emperor

Xi Jinping
This fall, the Nineteenth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) gave proof that during his five years as general secretary Xi Jinping has become the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong died in 1976. Most observers, Chinese and foreign, who already knew this could only have been …

China’s Astounding Religious Revival

Worshipers at the Tibetan Buddhist Lama Temple in central Beijing, March 2014

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.

China: The Superpower of Mr. Xi

President Xi Jinping, Central Discipline Inspection Committee Secretary Wang Qishan, and Premier Li Keqiang, Tiananamen Square, Beijing, September 2014

The Governance of China

by Xi Jinping

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?

Paddling to Peking

Zhuang Zedong playing at the twenty-sixth World Table Tennis Championships, in which he won the men’s singles title, Beijing, 1961

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 …

The ‘Breaking of an Honorable Career’

John Paton Davies Jr., circa 1943, when he was a State Department official based in China

China Hand: An Autobiography

by John Paton Davies Jr.
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, …

Who Was Mao Zedong?

Dong Xiwen: The Founding Ceremony of the Nation (1951), showing Mao proclaiming the birth of the People’s Republic of China from the Imperial Palace Gate at Tiananmen Square, 1949

Mao: The Real Story

by Alexander V. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine
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 …

The Worst Man-Made Catastrophe, Ever

Chen Yanning: Chairman Mao Inspects the Guangdong Countryside, 1972. This painting, from Asia Society’s recent exhibition ‘Art and China’s Revolution,’ shows Mao’s visit to the outskirts of Guangzhou during the first year of the Great Leap Forward, the initiative that propelled China into a famine resulting in millions of deaths.

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 …