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Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century

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From two of today's foremost experts on China, a thought-provoking new history that helps us understand China's future by looking at its rise over the last 150 years. Wealth and Power is a sweeping account of the key, iconic intellectual figures and political leaders of China since the mid-1800s. By examining what they thought and what they did through lively and absorbing From two of today's foremost experts on China, a thought-provoking new history that helps us understand China's future by looking at its rise over the last 150 years. Wealth and Power is a sweeping account of the key, iconic intellectual figures and political leaders of China since the mid-1800s. By examining what they thought and what they did through lively and absorbing portraits, Schell and Delury chart how China made its tortured transformation from a weak, humiliated country under foreign assault to its astonishing rise in the early 21st century. In so doing, they provide us with a deeper and richer understanding of China's present success story.


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From two of today's foremost experts on China, a thought-provoking new history that helps us understand China's future by looking at its rise over the last 150 years. Wealth and Power is a sweeping account of the key, iconic intellectual figures and political leaders of China since the mid-1800s. By examining what they thought and what they did through lively and absorbing From two of today's foremost experts on China, a thought-provoking new history that helps us understand China's future by looking at its rise over the last 150 years. Wealth and Power is a sweeping account of the key, iconic intellectual figures and political leaders of China since the mid-1800s. By examining what they thought and what they did through lively and absorbing portraits, Schell and Delury chart how China made its tortured transformation from a weak, humiliated country under foreign assault to its astonishing rise in the early 21st century. In so doing, they provide us with a deeper and richer understanding of China's present success story.

30 review for Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roya

    I am in the process of immigrating to China as an expat for a 3 to 4 year assignment. I can say that, until now, I have not found any book about China to be very helpful. Most are negative, and view China through a western lens. None helped me to understand the people or culture. This book is different. First, it is readable and interesting. Secondly, I thought it was a very balanced and thought-provoking account of modern China from the Opium wars to the present, seen from the point of view of I am in the process of immigrating to China as an expat for a 3 to 4 year assignment. I can say that, until now, I have not found any book about China to be very helpful. Most are negative, and view China through a western lens. None helped me to understand the people or culture. This book is different. First, it is readable and interesting. Secondly, I thought it was a very balanced and thought-provoking account of modern China from the Opium wars to the present, seen from the point of view of some of the country's critical thinkers, with a balanced commentary by the author. I read it while in China, working in Chengdu and some off-the-map (literally) rural areas. The book helped me to understand what I was seeing and why and has put some context around my experiences that I have found very helpful, both personally and professionally. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a balanced view of China and who wants to learn about the culture and history of this very interesting country.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nam Le

    As a Vietnamese citizens, I am always interested to the history of China, a strong and irritable neighbour, especially how this nation could rise from the poor and backward country to one of the most powerful and influencing power on Earth. The book took an very unorthodox and interesting approach to Chinese history from the beginning of the Opium War to the rise of Xi Jinping in recent years, by focusing on the lives and works of major critical thinkers and political leaders such as Sun-Yatsen, As a Vietnamese citizens, I am always interested to the history of China, a strong and irritable neighbour, especially how this nation could rise from the poor and backward country to one of the most powerful and influencing power on Earth. The book took an very unorthodox and interesting approach to Chinese history from the beginning of the Opium War to the rise of Xi Jinping in recent years, by focusing on the lives and works of major critical thinkers and political leaders such as Sun-Yatsen, Chiang-Kang Shek, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and more recently Liu Xiabo. The book explained in detailed how Chinese leaders and people failed to strengthen their political and economy until the Open Policy of Deng Xiaoping take places. However, the last two chapters of the books does not seems to fully describe the current situation of China and the problems of rapidly economic growth such as extreme pollution, social chaos inside their borders, and increasing tensions between China and other nations such as US or South East Asian countries. However, this is very excellent book in which the author told us a great story through the integration of a vast amount of references through a very deep and careful interpretations. I would recommend this book for anyone who want to discover more about China, or who just like to witness one of the most miraculous transformation of a country during the modern time. I am looking forward to read a book about 21st century China from the same author.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kai Wong

    Schell & Delury's work illuminates the fact that the end of history is distant in our rear-view mirror, and China is in the 21st century's driver's seat -- of a vehicle built upon a century of humiliation followed by another century of struggle & liberation. It was Vico who said that the age of Gods (dynastic China) is followed by the ages of heroes (Sun, Mao, & co.), and finally by the age of men (PRC). We are undoubtedly in this last cycle, and it remains to be seen just how far and how long C Schell & Delury's work illuminates the fact that the end of history is distant in our rear-view mirror, and China is in the 21st century's driver's seat -- of a vehicle built upon a century of humiliation followed by another century of struggle & liberation. It was Vico who said that the age of Gods (dynastic China) is followed by the ages of heroes (Sun, Mao, & co.), and finally by the age of men (PRC). We are undoubtedly in this last cycle, and it remains to be seen just how far and how long Chinese rationality & values will bulwark against the liberal world order (Five Eyes, EU, the Quad) and more importantly lead the world in climate action. Recommended for knee-jerk Sino-philistines who are fed daily headlines and would like a more neutral stance (written by white Americans!) and anyone that just wants an enthralling history book filled with quotes, journalistic writing, and stunning photos. Also recommend the Hidden Forces episode featuring Schell to get a taste of how he thinks (or just read his bio).

  4. 5 out of 5

    H. P.

    Wealth and Power follows Chinese history from the Opium Wars to today. Modern Chinese history is generally considered to have begun with the Treaty of Nanjing at the close of the first Opium War. Schell and Delury see special significance is using that first great humiliation of China at the hands of the modern world as the starting point, central to a thesis they use to explore Chinese history through its intellectual history. Roughly, that thesis is that modern Chinese history is best understo Wealth and Power follows Chinese history from the Opium Wars to today. Modern Chinese history is generally considered to have begun with the Treaty of Nanjing at the close of the first Opium War. Schell and Delury see special significance is using that first great humiliation of China at the hands of the modern world as the starting point, central to a thesis they use to explore Chinese history through its intellectual history. Roughly, that thesis is that modern Chinese history is best understood as a reaction to its modern humiliation, the desire to strengthen itself and overcome that humiliation by achieving “wealth and power,” and the tension that created with traditional Confucianism. The underlying intellectual tension in modern Chinese history then, is between conservative family-centric thinking and conservative state-centric thinking. It’s thinking that dates back to the old conflict between Confucians and the Legalists, philosophical adversaries to the Confucians whose mantra was Wealth and Power. It’s a conflict that predates and leaves precious little room for classical liberalism or even Marxism. In service of this thesis, Schell and Delury dispense with a traditional narrative history in favor of focusing on 11 “iconic intellectuals and leaders, reformers and revolutionaries.” The 11 are: Wei Yuan (born in 1794, died in 1857), Feng Guifen (1809-1874), the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), Liang Qichao (1873-1929), Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), Chen Duxiu (1879-1942), Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975), Mao Zedong (1893-1976), Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), Zhu Rongji (1928-), and Liu Xiaobo (1955-). They are a mix of scholar-official civil servants (sharing the experience of failing at least one examination), writers, dissidents, and leaders of the Republic of China and in the Nationalist and Communist parties, as well as one (and, tellingly, only one) member of the royal family. They share much in common. Each argued that China needed to seriously change in some way. Most reverted to less radical and more Confucian positions in their later years. Their arguments tended to be utilitarian rather than rooted in natural rights (of the 11, only Liu can fairly be said to be a true proponent of natural rights and liberal democracy). When liberalism or democracy are advocated for, it tends to be not as an end but as a means to the end of Wealth and Power (the same could probably be said for Marxism). Unsurprisingly then, the need for an authoritarian prelude to self-government is common. Little if any respect is shown toward the Chinese people, even while the Chinese nation is viewed worshipfully. As is to be expected, Communist China gets a great deal of attention. Mao and Deng are the only 2 of the 11 to get double chapters. It’s interesting to both see how traditional Chinese culture and philosophy influenced the Chinese brand of Marxism and how the Chinese Communist Party differed from its counterpart in Moscow, both favorite topics of Schell and Delury. Mao had a belief in the power of the Great Man, influenced by the great Chinese classical novels, that was at odds with Marxism’s economic determinism. He also recognized that rural China was better primed for a Communist revolution than urban China. We hear about the Long March, the Hundred Flowers Movement, and the Great Leap Forward, among others. The authors are perhaps too kind in dealing with Mao’s commitment to disruptive change and cultural destruction. Early on the authors describe their works as a “historical reflection on China’s ‘economic miracle.’” I think the scare quotes are fairer than the authors probably do: I’m not convinced there is any economic miracle. In the final chapter they suggest that the incredible destruction wrought under Mao weakened traditional Confucianism—a force against progress—sufficient such that true reform was possible. I think the basic logic of that is fine, but what results at what cost? Tens of millions died, and the “economic miracle” looks like a miracle in large part because Mao’s policies led to such incredible poverty. Yes, China now has the second largest economy in the world by GDP, but its per capita income still lags the US, Japan, Taiwan, and even the world average. Dramatic growth is easy when the simplest reforms are available because a country is doing virtually everything wrong. And this growth has come without any attendant real political freedom. Asia for whatever reason has produced several success stories of moving from authoritarianism to constitutionalism, but the intellectual history that Schell and Delury so richly illustrate, China has a deep, deep tradition of nationalistic utilitarianism and no serious tradition of classical liberalism. I was initially put off by the authors’ sometimes tortured metaphors and the format, which is difficult to follow without a good base in Chinese history, but by the end of the book I felt I had an understanding of the “mind of China” I never had before and, more importantly, a grasp on what I still don’t know (more known unknowns and fewer unknown knowns). The centrality of national humiliation and the tension between Confucianism and the Legalists is pretty straightforward, albeit necessary to any real understanding of China. More nuanced, and so well explained by Schell and Delury, are the differences between Russia’s brand of Marxism and that of China, and differences between party-founder Chen, Mao, and later party leaders. It’s also enlightening to see how readily Chinese leaders—including Nationalist leaders—were to adopt Marxist-Leninist principles where they thought useful while discarding others. Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance e-copy of Wealth and Power via NetGalley.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jakub Dovcik

    Probably the best book about the intellectual history of the dvelopment of modern China; I have read it four times, but still find it extremely enjoyable and insightful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tom Shannon

    I learned some things about Chinese history and I followed the argument that the country tries to have wealth and power, which I think is fairly common to many countries. It was fairly superficial in the explanations but overall I found it to be an interesting read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    JS Found

    This is a good history of China in the modern age told through the lives of its leaders and intellectuals. The aim of these people was to bring China, that traditional, classics bound kingdom, into the modern world, where it would not be so isolated, interact and profit from its neighbors and other countries, and improve the lives of its citizens. There were many ways this problem was thought out, and the authors take you pretty much into the thoughts and writings of the characters, one of whom This is a good history of China in the modern age told through the lives of its leaders and intellectuals. The aim of these people was to bring China, that traditional, classics bound kingdom, into the modern world, where it would not be so isolated, interact and profit from its neighbors and other countries, and improve the lives of its citizens. There were many ways this problem was thought out, and the authors take you pretty much into the thoughts and writings of the characters, one of whom is Mao Zedong, whose radical upheavals that killed millions were attempts to modernize China. But space is given to the charitable intellectuals and freedom fighters too. In fact, there is no one Chinese way of mind, no representative way of thinking. The country has had a long story; so too have the people been varied in thought and deed. This goes without saying, is glaringly obvious, but I bring it up only to diffuse ignorant stereotypes of China by the West. You could do well to start your course in Chinese culture and history with this book. But one thing I kept thinking about while reading was how similar China and America are. China too considered itself a great empire that was the center of the world, and was arrogant enough to think it needed no other wisdom from other countries. Sound familiar? What China was back then America is now, and one perhaps unwitting lesson from the authors is that America cannot go the way it's going. We are in a period of stagnation and unhappiness, where the founding tenets of this country--making money--are jeopardizing the people of this country. By saying the founding was about making money, I don't mean the official founding of this country was founded on money-though you could argue it was, with the colonies wanting to protect their commerce from stringent British laws--but the actual discovery and settlement of this country, that sparked a Native American genocide because of profit. But, I digress... What China's problem was, at least from this book, was the shackles of its ancient, spiritual and philosophical culture. How it got out of it, in the double chapters on Deng Xiaoping, was to not fight its history, but to dismiss it as the problem and focus just on economic growth. The United States, founded on economic growth, has never had a traditional, spiritual, philosophical culture. So China's journey we must make in reverse. We already have economic liberalism, human rights and democracy (though, as with the most recent campaign finance Supreme Court ruling, even that is eroding by money too), what we need is a altruistic and empathetic morality and ethics that curbs the free market conservative ideology that has been so destructive to the people of this country. Not socialism, certainly not Mao-like Communism, but a capitalism that isn't divorced from culture and history and ethics. We need a shared culture and ethics that binds all of us--rich and poor--together, so that we stop thinking and acting in selfish individual terms, and instead help one another to prosper. Then, we can have a country true of wealth and power.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amy Minh

    In light of what is happening in HK, this book provides an excellent background to understand China's obsession with political stability. Since the opium wars, China had been bullied by foreign powers and forced to give up territories, paying war indemnity, and signing unfair treaties. Many reformers since then blame China's weakness on the feudal Confucianism values: husband over wife, father over son, master over student, family over individual, felial piety, past over future, and continuity o In light of what is happening in HK, this book provides an excellent background to understand China's obsession with political stability. Since the opium wars, China had been bullied by foreign powers and forced to give up territories, paying war indemnity, and signing unfair treaties. Many reformers since then blame China's weakness on the feudal Confucianism values: husband over wife, father over son, master over student, family over individual, felial piety, past over future, and continuity over change. These values are oppressive and backward, preventing growth and reform. Yet, the Chinese were too arrogant and insecure to admit they were behind world powers economically and military but at the same time priding themselves to be morally superior than the barbarians. When Mao established the PRC in 1949, his destructive policies - the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward - created living hell and forged a strong will for change. He demolished the old China beauracracy and paved a path for a new China under Deng Xiopin's opening up and reform policies. After 30 years of explosive economic growth, China has become the world's second largest economy. What's next for China? Is it ready for democracy, constitutionalism, freedom of speech the West is so eager to see? China has been criticised to be thin skinned and easily offended when such topics are brought up. After centuries of humiliation by foreign powers no amount of material success is enough to shake off the sense of national insecurity and inferiority. For now, the majority of Chinese is happy to exchange their political freedom for prosperity and power the one-party system has provided. After centuries of reforms, this is time for some breathing room. It will take another couple of generation to cultivate genuine self esteem, not through extravagant riches or millitary power, but from its culture, virtues of civil life and a political system that is tolerant, transparent, accountable, and just.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Zachery Tyson

    I've read a lot of books about China during the last year, and this is one of the best. At once entertaining and educational, the authors rip through 150 years of modern Chinese history by focusing on the movers and shakers driven to restore China to wealth and power. I've read a lot of books about China during the last year, and this is one of the best. At once entertaining and educational, the authors rip through 150 years of modern Chinese history by focusing on the movers and shakers driven to restore China to wealth and power.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Andy Lee

    Exceptionally well-researched. China has used shame as a motivation for adopting their idea of the best of Western ideologies and technologies. It's incredible to realize that China has raised over one billion people out of poverty. I would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about how China has undergone the greatest economic transformation in modern history. Exceptionally well-researched. China has used shame as a motivation for adopting their idea of the best of Western ideologies and technologies. It's incredible to realize that China has raised over one billion people out of poverty. I would recommend this to anyone interested in reading about how China has undergone the greatest economic transformation in modern history.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim Puskas

    An overarching theme of this book is China's long struggle to overcome its nearly two centuries of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers. Justifiably proud of an ancient and highly accomplished culture, China has been punished by a succession of invading armies, colonized by imperialist aggressors, exploited by foreign business interests, offended by proselytising missionaries. All of which has been so difficult for China to tolerate that despite their starkly conflicting political approach An overarching theme of this book is China's long struggle to overcome its nearly two centuries of humiliation at the hands of foreign powers. Justifiably proud of an ancient and highly accomplished culture, China has been punished by a succession of invading armies, colonized by imperialist aggressors, exploited by foreign business interests, offended by proselytising missionaries. All of which has been so difficult for China to tolerate that despite their starkly conflicting political approaches, a whole succession of governments and revolutionary movements have all shared a determination to set China on a course toward self-determination, ascendancy and prosperity. The question that remains unanswered is whether the latest regime, an incongruous marriage of so-called "communist" one-party rule and unbridled capitalist oligarchy shall in the end truly overcome China's sad history and achieve true stability in addition to "Wealth and Power". Indeed, the writers have not even succeeded in determining how much of China's newfound success is real and how much is grandiose stage decoration concealing fraudulent and failed business schemes. There is no mention of China's complete lack of business transparency. The current state of the millions of agrarian and urban poor is hardly touched upon, nor do they address the appalling degree of state censorship, abuse of minorities, "disappearances" of opponents, mock trials and party corruption at all levels. It seems to me that the writers have been mesmerized by ostentatious sudden wealth and feats of engineering.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    A thorough and detailed overview of modern Chinese history, starting from the Opium War era to the present day. The authors focus on an influential Chinese figure for each chapter, each representing a different period in Chinese history. Although this approach was clean and gave me a fairly good analysis of what types of sentiments and events were present during the time period, powerful personages were sometimes not given as much attention as I would have liked-- for example, Zhou En-Lai was ha A thorough and detailed overview of modern Chinese history, starting from the Opium War era to the present day. The authors focus on an influential Chinese figure for each chapter, each representing a different period in Chinese history. Although this approach was clean and gave me a fairly good analysis of what types of sentiments and events were present during the time period, powerful personages were sometimes not given as much attention as I would have liked-- for example, Zhou En-Lai was hardly discussed, and Li Hongzhang shared a chapter. The authors' main points also tended to be expressed very frequently and repetitively throughout each chapter. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in learning more about modern day China-- the goals and troubles of the Chinese Communist Party, the average Chinese citizen's sense of humiliation in the prior weakness of China, and how these attitudes affect the country today. It's stuff that's been covered elsewhere, more in-depth and with greater detail, but the authors give a fairly good broad look at it in "Wealth and Power." The chapters on more recent figures such as Zhu Rongji and Liu Xiaobo were particularly illuminating, as I had not had much prior knowledge on recent CCP leaders and on dissenters. Someone with a fairly good background on China most likely would appreciate these later chapters more than the earlier ones, but in general, a solid basis for getting to understand modern-day China.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kenny Smith

    The book takes a "great men" approach to Chinese history, meaning that it discusses the subject through the lens of key historical and intellectual figures. Obviously, that strategy is problematic for a number of reasons - perhaps most importantly, it attempts to chart a linear narrative of progress, which can be seen most crucially in their decision to end with the democratic reformer Liu Xiaobo. Secondly, the discussion of the general population is mostly bare bones, with them mostly serving a The book takes a "great men" approach to Chinese history, meaning that it discusses the subject through the lens of key historical and intellectual figures. Obviously, that strategy is problematic for a number of reasons - perhaps most importantly, it attempts to chart a linear narrative of progress, which can be seen most crucially in their decision to end with the democratic reformer Liu Xiaobo. Secondly, the discussion of the general population is mostly bare bones, with them mostly serving as an undifferentiated mass of "public opinion" that either springs into action at certain moments (like the May Fourth Movement or Tiananmen Square) or holds the nation back from its ambitions. The advantage of the approach, though, is that it anchors Chinese history in compelling narratives about actual people. For the most part, it was a pleasurable read, and provided the broad, easily consumable overview that I was looking for. I would turn elsewhere, though, if you're interested more in the everyday person, such as Yang Jisheng's Tombstone or any of the numerous autobiographies of the Cultural Revolution. As a final note, I want to emphasize that I mean "great men" quite literally, as only one female figure of any importance is discussed at length in the book. I shouldn't have to level this criticism of a twenty-first century publication, but it would be nice to at least have some insight into what was happening with women during China's march toward modernization.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Clem

    How does one begin to write the history of a country and manage to contain it all in one volume? I would daresay a task is impossible; especially for a country that has been in existence for thousands of years. Truth be told, this book is not an actual history of China, yet this isn’t really the authors’ intentions. The purpose of this book is to show how a once isolated, maligned country could rise from the depths of humiliation and subjugation and become, arguably, the most prosperous nation o How does one begin to write the history of a country and manage to contain it all in one volume? I would daresay a task is impossible; especially for a country that has been in existence for thousands of years. Truth be told, this book is not an actual history of China, yet this isn’t really the authors’ intentions. The purpose of this book is to show how a once isolated, maligned country could rise from the depths of humiliation and subjugation and become, arguably, the most prosperous nation of the 21st century. To tell this story accurately, a fair amount of history needs to be told, though. What is China’s past? What were the seeds that allowed them to grow? And most importantly, who were the key figures that planted these seeds? This book does a splendid job of telling the history of China (starting around the 1850s during the Opium Wars) through the eyes of some of the keenest minds and instigators within the country. This really is a magnificent way of telling a story without allowing the reader to become immersed with too much minutiae and daily comings and goings that can weigh one down. Each chapter in this magnificent work serves as a sort of ‘Cliff’s Notes’ version of a period in the history of China, telling about the key events that would continue to shape the country. Since the focus of each chapter is also on a key player, we’re exposed to many of the normalcies and behaviors of the population as well. The authors do such a magnificent job, that I was tempted to read a complete biography on each key figure from each chapter. So roughly 170 years of history is told, and only about the last 25 could be looked at as marginally successful. China, from about 1850 through about 1980, is looked at as backwards, unsophisticated, and a far cry from a world power. What makes this book fascinating is the key insiders within the country realize this as well. They know the worldview of China isn’t positive nor powerful, and they realize that changes must be made. And these changes are slow. Boy are they slow. In fact, you have to admire the patience and perseverance of many of these nineteenth and early twentieth century figures . They’re convinced they’re contributing to the future success of China, but know that the changes being implemented are no guarantee for success, and they know that if these changes are successful, they won’t see results any time soon. In other words, they know that the changes won’t happen until long after they’ve been dead and buried. Is this a trait unique to those indigenous to Far-Eastern culture? As an American, I have to believe so to a point. I can’t imagine many in my country trying to radically change the direction of the country without some sort of instant gratification. When China is ravished by neighboring Japan during World War 2, a present-day resident probably couldn’t help thinking that all of the changes so far were for naught. Especially when the turmoil gives rise to the bloodthirsty despot Mao Zedong. Mao manages to ravage his homeland by starving and killing the masses as he believes it will somehow encourage and inspire proletariat unification that will allow his homeland to finally rise through the ashes. What’s a bit scary is that the authors suggest that Mao might have, in a strange way, succeeded at his goal. Most on the outside looking in, however, would conclude that the price that was paid was far too high. Although this book devotes two chapters to Mao (most other key figures only get one), there’s not a terrible amount of detail focusing on the atrocities of his regime during his so-called “Great Leap Forward”. We’re not exposed to the mass starvation, executions, and brutality of his regime. Oh sure, we read that it happened, but we’re not really allowed a front row seat. It’s after Mao’s depth that this book (and China itself) becomes the most interesting. Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s “successor” also gets an additional chapter devoted to him and the particular time in history, and I thought the chapters devoted to Deng were the most fascinating of the entire book. Deng, like Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev, realizes that he’s succeeding a bloodthirsty dictator, and humanitarian changes must be made to achieve China’s overall goal. Like Khrushchev, though, Deng doesn’t go nearly far enough. It was during his reign when the infamous Tiananmen Square incident took place in 1989. Deng’s most arduous goal for his country is for economic strength and not necessarily human rights. So although the country rises in economic power globally within the next few decades, the notion of ‘equality for everyone’ takes a significant backseat. In fact, the focus on economics as opposed to humanitarianism seems to be the focus of the last chapter or two of this book. The authors seem to stress to us that China has made significant strides financially, yet they still have quite a ways to go if they want to be looked at as ‘equals’ among the more philanthropic nations. The authors even hypothesize that China’s sprouting growth towards wealth and power might, in fact, be short lived if humanitarian changes remain slow and infrequent. This leads the reader to admire China’s economic growth, but there’s far too many warts for one to become impressed overall. Ironically the words in this book’s title “Wealth and Power” are looked at favorably from a monetary, hedonistic perspective, but those who know history know that these two words don’t come close to equaling success from a moralistic perspective. This is crucial that the reader doesn’t miss this. I loved this book. This is one of those rare books that I’m sure I’ll one day re-read. It was incredibly easy to understand and assimilate. It also taught so many valuable lessons of human nature of the past, present, and even the future. This book is a great starting point for those who might not follow current events closely yet have recently noticed that China seems to be in the headlines an awful lot. This book does a magnificent job of telling you the how and the why.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Erez Davidi

    I've had a keen interest in China for the last several years. As anyone who reads the papers would know, China is gaining more and more media attention. This has also manifested itself in a major inflation of books about China. It has become quite hard to choose the "correct" books to read about China. "Wealth and Power" is by far one of the best books I have read about China's recent history in the past few years. "Wealth and Power" examines China's recent history dating from the first Opium War I've had a keen interest in China for the last several years. As anyone who reads the papers would know, China is gaining more and more media attention. This has also manifested itself in a major inflation of books about China. It has become quite hard to choose the "correct" books to read about China. "Wealth and Power" is by far one of the best books I have read about China's recent history in the past few years. "Wealth and Power" examines China's recent history dating from the first Opium War (the beginning of the humiliation of China) until recent years. It does so in a rather unusual way by examining important events through the lives of leading figures of China, such as Liang Qichao, Mao Zedong, Chiang Kai Shek, Deng Xiaoping, and more. For the most part, I was rather familiar with all the events described; however, it still helped me to better understand China and the forces driving it. This an excellent book, which every person who is interested in China will find illuminating.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Derek Sutter

    I would recommend this book to anyone. Of course, it is great for history buffs, but, beyond chronologically-delivered information, it contains political power plays, the stories of individual heroes, the exploration of ideas, differing techniques of governance, tales of economic successes and economic failures, and personal tragedies. Indeed, I think this book can offer an enjoyable and enlightening read to for any person's leisure or study. I would recommend this book to anyone. Of course, it is great for history buffs, but, beyond chronologically-delivered information, it contains political power plays, the stories of individual heroes, the exploration of ideas, differing techniques of governance, tales of economic successes and economic failures, and personal tragedies. Indeed, I think this book can offer an enjoyable and enlightening read to for any person's leisure or study.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Great historical overview, but falls short in conveying how undying, pervasive Confucian values will continue to guide the nation -- democratized or not. (Henry Kissinger's work "On China" highly recommended.) Great historical overview, but falls short in conveying how undying, pervasive Confucian values will continue to guide the nation -- democratized or not. (Henry Kissinger's work "On China" highly recommended.)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Dees

    Great read on the modern history of China and the intellectuals and leaders that molded her course.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    How did China and the US get to the current point in world history? Was it something in the Qing Dynasty that wiped out such an unfathomable percentage of mankind? Why haven't you washed your hands for twenty seconds yet? I'm waiting right here, and will be in the same place for when you get back. Many other world pandemics besides the current one stem from the PRC. Why is that? Is hygiene that difficult to manage? I remember when I got back from my travels abroad that it was definitely buggy (as How did China and the US get to the current point in world history? Was it something in the Qing Dynasty that wiped out such an unfathomable percentage of mankind? Why haven't you washed your hands for twenty seconds yet? I'm waiting right here, and will be in the same place for when you get back. Many other world pandemics besides the current one stem from the PRC. Why is that? Is hygiene that difficult to manage? I remember when I got back from my travels abroad that it was definitely buggy (as in ridden with insects), but I don't recall what the problem was. I most appreciated how this book helped me understand nationalism better. I'm quite well and good with communism (I sang to everyone I knew on the telephone the only CCP song I recognised from class, at least the first line, and then hummed the tune after that since Chinese is not my native language). I wonder why my orchestra never performed the former song, even if it played the Agapkin that my Youtube was suggesting I listen to next. Perhaps since what I am talking about sounds better vocally than performed on instruments? So, huh. How about that. Whatever happened, I've concluded we just need to keep endeavouring to succeed in our pursuits, whatever they may be! I found this book intriguing, and I hope that you do too, because it has useful information I hadn't considered before, even after taking my class and travelling to Guizhou for further studies the same year this was published. Admittedly, it may not cover immediate matters such as Xinhua might cover, but I was pleased with it. And hey, according to Xinhua, France's hospitalizations are reducing from this pandemic! However, "But the WHO said on its website that "masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water."" I wandered off from here to watch the launch of Chang'e 5 to the moon! 5 is my favourite to say in Chinese anyway since May's my birth month. Enjoy this book, I am watching the Chang'e 5 live raw space video now.

  20. 4 out of 5

    RH

    Excellent rundown of China's road to national rejuvenation through the lens of some of well-known characters and some lesser known ones. It was interesting to read on various different angles on China's struggle for growth over the last two centuries, including Confucian, Legalist, Maoist, and cryptocapitalist perspectives. The structure of the book makes it very accessible even to those not entirely acquainted with the sinuous trajectory of modern Chinese history. I have to commend the authors Excellent rundown of China's road to national rejuvenation through the lens of some of well-known characters and some lesser known ones. It was interesting to read on various different angles on China's struggle for growth over the last two centuries, including Confucian, Legalist, Maoist, and cryptocapitalist perspectives. The structure of the book makes it very accessible even to those not entirely acquainted with the sinuous trajectory of modern Chinese history. I have to commend the authors for sticking to their theme of China's pursuit of wealth and power so consistently despite having to consolidate the ideologies of thinkers, writers, and politicians who were often poles apart from each other. I do have a couple of minor issues with this book, though. Firstly, the conclusion felt like an offhand, last-minute ramble because of grammatical & spelling typos and some long-winded sentences that were barely intelligible. Secondly, I was a bit surprised to see missing parts from certain sections. For example, there is barely any mention of the manner in which the Qing Dynasty collapsed despite the fact that the Xinhai Revolution had so much to do with a collective Chinese sense of shame during the disastrous 19th century. Another would be the complete absence of Deng's agreements with Britain and Portugal over the respective handovers of Hong Kong and Macau. Surely, these two symbolic agreements went a long way in redeeming the ignominy of having lost these two territories during periods of weakness and so deserved at least an obligatory mention. Nonetheless, would definitely recommend this book as an incisive guide into China's recovery after the 'century of humiliation' and its influences on the psychology of modern-day Chinese patriotism and outward nationalism.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aadhaar Verma

    This book is similar to an Indian book I read a few years ago called "Makers of Modern India". Like this book, Orville Schell and John Delury chronicle the life of 10 men and 1 woman who tried to modernize and evolve China into a the Westphalian Nation State. The book starts with the writings of Wei Yuan in the late 18th century and ends with Liu Xiaobo in the 20th/21st century. Through the lives of these people, various incidents such as the Opium Wars, Taiping Rebellion, May 4th Movement, Cult This book is similar to an Indian book I read a few years ago called "Makers of Modern India". Like this book, Orville Schell and John Delury chronicle the life of 10 men and 1 woman who tried to modernize and evolve China into a the Westphalian Nation State. The book starts with the writings of Wei Yuan in the late 18th century and ends with Liu Xiaobo in the 20th/21st century. Through the lives of these people, various incidents such as the Opium Wars, Taiping Rebellion, May 4th Movement, Cultural Revolution, 1989 Tiananmen Massacre are encountered etc. Given that the focus is "wealth and power", the book focuses primarily on real-politik and how Chinese politicians think. While this keeps the book focused, it also misses out on the social aspects of Chinese history - some of which, if covered, would have been interesting to know. For instance, what did some of these thinkers have to say about social practices such as female foot-binding or children's education? How did events like the "Great Leap Forward" effect the policies of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin? The book skips such areas and instead focuses on what drove these politicians and thinkers. In this regards, the book is well done, fairly balanced and serves as a good starting point into delve deeper into some characters such as Chen Dixiu, Sun Yat Set etc. My main 'gripe' or 'critique' of the book (if you'd like to call it so) is that the book ought to have delved a little bit into Legalism and Confucianism - the two major philosophies and how the teachings from these Chinese philosophical schools influenced these thinkers into coming up with their thoughts.

  22. 5 out of 5

    João Nunes

    Overrated. I thought about giving it a 2/5, but the book is very well written, it's very pleasant to read, and it has some very good moments. Specifically, the understanding of the concept of "Shame" that China went through after the Opium Wars. Why have I thought about giving it a 2/5? I disliked the Republican era chapters and the way issues like the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square are described as absolutely uncritical factually understood thematics when they're not... In the end, ther Overrated. I thought about giving it a 2/5, but the book is very well written, it's very pleasant to read, and it has some very good moments. Specifically, the understanding of the concept of "Shame" that China went through after the Opium Wars. Why have I thought about giving it a 2/5? I disliked the Republican era chapters and the way issues like the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square are described as absolutely uncritical factually understood thematics when they're not... In the end, there's a very nice philosophical conclusion after an obsolete chapter about Liu Xiaobo. Overall, it's a biased western book when it comes to the most important topics about Communist China. But very very decent if you want to grasp a small picture of contemporary China.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century, by Orville Schell and John Delury is a book about China's progression through the slow decline of the Qing Empire in the late 19th and early 20th century. The book chronicles this progression by examining the efforts of 11 of China's most important thinkers, leaders, politicians and activists. These figures are as follows: 1: Wei Yuan: political scholar in the Qing Empire 2: Feng Guifen: self-strengthener during the Qing decline 3: E Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century, by Orville Schell and John Delury is a book about China's progression through the slow decline of the Qing Empire in the late 19th and early 20th century. The book chronicles this progression by examining the efforts of 11 of China's most important thinkers, leaders, politicians and activists. These figures are as follows: 1: Wei Yuan: political scholar in the Qing Empire 2: Feng Guifen: self-strengthener during the Qing decline 3: Empress Dowager Cixi: Empress of the Qing Empire during the unequal treaties 4: Liang Qichao: reformist during the late Qing 5: Sun Yat-sen: first president of the Republic of China 6: Chen Duxiu: founder of the Chinese Communist Party 7: Chiang Kai-shek: "president" of the Republic of China 8: Mao Zedong: first Premier of Communist China 9: Deng Xiaoping: the great reformer of Communist China 10: Zhu Rongji: presided over China during their early mega-growth period 11: Liu Xiaobo: democracy activist and dissident in modern China This list of the greats of modern China moves through the nations progression from humiliated and collapsing Empire to the confident rising power we know today. The early thinkers in this list, such as Wei Yuan and Feng Guifen, sought to correct Qing China's humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, and their own internal weakness, through "self-strengthening." This refers to the need to study foreign concepts such as economics, military theory and maritime power in order to exert control or protect national interests. China was reluctant, in the mid-nineteenth century, to engage with other nations. Qing China viewed itself as the centre of the world, with all others being inferior. This concept was shattered during the Opium wars with Britain, and other colonial conflicts with France and Japan. China was crumbling, and the scholars of the age new this, and were ashamed. This self criticism and humiliation was a powerful early tool used by the self strengtheners to try and change the conservative aspects of the Qing bureaucracy. Empress Dowager Cixi existed in a transition period. She was forced to balance the interests of both the conservative Qing court, and the self strengtheners, who existed throughout society. Couple this duality with foreign colonial pressures, and Cixi had a tough fight ahead of her. She was adept at political survival, and often flipped between all camps to try and achieve what was best for the crumbling Empire she ruled over. Following her, the reformers of both the brief Nationalist (Republican) period sought to remake China, but became bogged down in internal divisions, corruption and external pressures. Experiments with democracy failed, with only one election ever being held in China. Eventually, the Nationalist government consolidated power, and was in turn weakened by Japanese forces, communist insurgents and regional warlords, and finally, removed from the mainland by a victorious Mao Zedong and his communist forces. Mao consolidated his hold on power, and ruled China unprovoked until his death in 1976. This time was marked both by an end to the political chaos China had been experiencing since the mid-nineteenth century, and the beginning of devastating social, cultural and economic experiments, which had took a massive toll on China's peasant farmers. Following the Maoist period, China has seen remarkable growth, much because of the neo-liberal policies championed by Deng Xiaoping and his successor, Zhu Rongji, who came out on top in the CCP and sought to "open" China to foreign investment. However, greater economic freedom within China has not, as of yet, blossomed into democratic freedom. Figure like Liu Xiaobo, who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests in the late 1980's, and has since been an outspoken critic of the authoritarian political decisions of the CCP, have tried to move China into this direction, with great resistance from the reformers in the CCP. Schell and Delury do an excellent job chronicling these exciting events, and detailing the perceived wisdom behind what the movers and shakers of China's upswing wrote, spoke of and fought and died for. It is no small task to try and chronicle such a vast history of change and upheaval, but these two do a great job getting their point across, as well as analysing major factors behind certain events. I have few criticisms of this work, besides the fact that it is very brief in some instances. Each of the analysed individuals deserves (and indeed has many) volumes about their lives and decisions, but this book can only offer a taste of information. This is a good starting point if you wish to study China's progression in depth, but if you are already familiar with most of the figures above, you will have little to glean from this work. Schell and Delury's message on China is about its interaction with western ideals, issues and actors, and how China is not always receptive to some of these. Instead, China has continuously tried to forge its own path throughout history, both to escape the humiliating unequal treaties of the past and to reassert itself as a "wealthy and powerful" nation state. Personally, I found this book to be highly readable and interesting. I am fascinated by both Chinese history and Chinese politics and very much appreciated the authors insights into the Chinese nation. I may not have always agreed with some of their assertions, but they are interesting nonetheless. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for an intro to Chinese political thought and culture, and to those interested in China's past or future trajectory.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Les

    Wealth and Power was an excellent primer on Chinese political thought over the last one hundred and fifty years. From the declining fortunes and humiliation of the Qing Dynasty to the emerging superpower that is today's China, Schell traces through the biographies of key figures their struggle to restore China's wealth and power. The question of relative priorities -- the need for a strong China that is wealthy and cannot be bullied against demands for democracy and human rights is a persistent Wealth and Power was an excellent primer on Chinese political thought over the last one hundred and fifty years. From the declining fortunes and humiliation of the Qing Dynasty to the emerging superpower that is today's China, Schell traces through the biographies of key figures their struggle to restore China's wealth and power. The question of relative priorities -- the need for a strong China that is wealthy and cannot be bullied against demands for democracy and human rights is a persistent theme throughout the work. Lively writing and good story telling help make this a compelling work.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    “When the country is humiliated, its spirit will be aroused.” Wei Yuan, 1842 “From ‘Our technology is not as good as other people’s,’ to ‘Our political system is not as good as other people’s,’ and on to ‘Our culture is not as good as other people’s,’ Chinese reflections on our own defects probed ever deeper. But the primary mind-set that guided the probing was neither ‘liberation of humanity,’ nor even ‘enriching people,’ but rather a sense of shame at China’s loss of sovereignty and other natio “When the country is humiliated, its spirit will be aroused.” Wei Yuan, 1842 “From ‘Our technology is not as good as other people’s,’ to ‘Our political system is not as good as other people’s,’ and on to ‘Our culture is not as good as other people’s,’ Chinese reflections on our own defects probed ever deeper. But the primary mind-set that guided the probing was neither ‘liberation of humanity,’ nor even ‘enriching people,’ but rather a sense of shame at China’s loss of sovereignty and other national humiliations.” These words of Nobel Prize winning dissident, Liu Xiaobo, give a rather neat summary of the arguments put forward in this fascinating and thought-provoking study of the Chinese psyche over the last 150 years or so, as evidenced and influenced by its greatest intellectuals, writers and leaders. The aim of the authors is to shed some light on how, in the last three decades, China has risen out of the poverty and political turmoil of the preceding century to become one of the richest and most powerful nations in the world. The authors show how the encroachment of the Western empires and defeats at the hands of enemies within and without led, not just to the fall of the empire at the beginning of the twentieth century, but to the creation of a national mind-set that has kept the aim of achieving ‘wealth and power’ at the heart of Chinese politics ever since. The succession of military defeats and subsequent ‘unequal treaties’, which forced China to pay punitive reparations and give territory and access to foreign states, led to a spirit of ‘national humiliation’. Far from allowing this to become a negative factor, however, successive intellectuals and leaders used it as a spur to galvanise China into a process of ‘self-strengthening’. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century, the main thrust was to borrow what was needed from the West in terms of technical and scientific knowledge, while maintaining the existing Confucian culture. But the authors show how, as that failed to make China strong enough to defy the many circling predators, gradually some intellectuals began to believe that there must be a period of ‘destruction’ of cultural sacred cows before ‘construction’ of a new and stronger state could begin. Each chapter focuses on one man, a leading intellectual or politician, taking us gradually through the decades from the end of the Opium wars to the present day. The emphasis is not on the events of any given period, although of course they are referenced and highlighted. Rather, the authors concentrate on the writings and speeches of each man, showing how each generation of political thought adopted, rejected or built on the ideas of the one before. Many of the people who are discussed were entirely unknown to me, especially those prior to WW2, but the authors create a continuous chain of intellectual development, clearly showing how and why ideas were influenced by, and adjusted in reaction to, events at home or abroad. The authors take a sympathetic approach to their subject – in the afterword they tell us that the book is part of a project undertaken by the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York to examine China’s reform movement and transition to modernity. They attempt, successfully in my view, to explain to a Western audience the cultural differences that have enabled China to follow a path that seems, to our eyes, doomed to fail – to build a society that values the acquisition of ‘wealth and power’ above things that we see as essential for progress: intellectual freedom, human rights, democracy. While in no way condoning the horrors of the era of Mao Zedong and the Cultural Revolution, they suggest that this period of destructiveness may in fact have cleared the way, culturally, for the creation under Deng Xiaoping of the ‘Leninist capitalist’ system that has enabled China to become the powerhouse it is today. An unequal society, yes, and with repression still at its core, but a country governed largely with the consent of its people nonetheless. They end with some informed speculation about where next for China - having gained ‘wealth and power’ will they use that power to bully other nations as they were bullied in their nineteenth century weakness? Or will they, from a position of strength, continue to open up their society and perhaps gradually move towards an intellectual position and political system more closely aligned with the West? I found this a lengthier read than its size would necessarily suggest, since after every few pages I would discover that I was staring at a wall and thinking. It has challenged and changed my pre-existing assumptions, certainly about China’s culture and system of government but perhaps also about our own. It has gone a long way towards answering the question why China, alone of all the major states that adopted authoritarian non-democratic systems during the twentieth century, seems eventually to have made a relative success of it while retaining the support of the majority of its citizens. Apologies for the length of this review, but I still feel I’ve given the merest glimpse into this highly illuminating and thought-provoking read. I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who is interested in understanding the national psyche of a nation that seems destined soon to be the wealthiest and most powerful of all. NB This book was provided for review by the publisher. www.fictionfanblog.wordpress.com

  26. 5 out of 5

    Indra

    Great insight into contemporary China! I really liked the structure, dedicating each chapter (sometimes 2) to a key figure in China's policies or thought, and in this way exploring also also key events. This book covers what was going on when the Qing Dinasty crumbled, why Mao happened, why Deng Xiaoping happened, and some other things that have happened ever since, both economically and socially (I think the latest events in the book are from 2007-2010, can't remember). The long, winding road C Great insight into contemporary China! I really liked the structure, dedicating each chapter (sometimes 2) to a key figure in China's policies or thought, and in this way exploring also also key events. This book covers what was going on when the Qing Dinasty crumbled, why Mao happened, why Deng Xiaoping happened, and some other things that have happened ever since, both economically and socially (I think the latest events in the book are from 2007-2010, can't remember). The long, winding road China has followed in the last 150 years certainly is fascinating, and I never felt the writing too slow or dry. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in China.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    As an introduction to modern Chinese history, it's difficult to imagine how Schell and Delury could have done a better job. I am not really in a position to critique the scholarship, but the ringing endorsements on the back cover from top authorities as well as the authors' own credentials put me at ease. Beginning with the Opium Wars, the author is walked through a century and a half of Chinese political history. As a reader with no knowledge at the book's opening, I now feel prepared to intell As an introduction to modern Chinese history, it's difficult to imagine how Schell and Delury could have done a better job. I am not really in a position to critique the scholarship, but the ringing endorsements on the back cover from top authorities as well as the authors' own credentials put me at ease. Beginning with the Opium Wars, the author is walked through a century and a half of Chinese political history. As a reader with no knowledge at the book's opening, I now feel prepared to intelligently discuss China with friends - even if there is still a great deal to learn.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peter Young

    Good read and a must for those who don't know modern Chinese history. Describes what really propels the current Chinese state, and it is not ideology. On fault I can find is that in the end it still pushes the Western idea of a liberal democracy as the panacea for all the ills of society. As the recent elections in the West shows this is NOT the case. A democracy is only so strong as the participants in that democracy, this requires education and free time. Good read and a must for those who don't know modern Chinese history. Describes what really propels the current Chinese state, and it is not ideology. On fault I can find is that in the end it still pushes the Western idea of a liberal democracy as the panacea for all the ills of society. As the recent elections in the West shows this is NOT the case. A democracy is only so strong as the participants in that democracy, this requires education and free time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    LuckyBao

    I'm giving this book five stars because it ticked every box that I wanted it to; it gives a relatively objective view of China's political system, describing the years of history that fueled their drive to regain lost honor and protect their culture, while also not shying away from difficult topics. As trade and historical ties with China become more and more relevant with every passing day, this is a book you shouldn't ignore. I'm giving this book five stars because it ticked every box that I wanted it to; it gives a relatively objective view of China's political system, describing the years of history that fueled their drive to regain lost honor and protect their culture, while also not shying away from difficult topics. As trade and historical ties with China become more and more relevant with every passing day, this is a book you shouldn't ignore.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This book is a series of 1 or 2 chapter long biographies of key Chinese political leaders and thinkers. The period covered is from The Opium Wars to current day. As far as history books go, I love this format. I am very interested in the people living the history and their stories. Perhaps it is a problem reading books written in English by Western authors, but it seemed that there was a lot of focus on the West and it's influence. This book is a series of 1 or 2 chapter long biographies of key Chinese political leaders and thinkers. The period covered is from The Opium Wars to current day. As far as history books go, I love this format. I am very interested in the people living the history and their stories. Perhaps it is a problem reading books written in English by Western authors, but it seemed that there was a lot of focus on the West and it's influence.

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