China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know

China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know

China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know

China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know

Synopsis

The need to understand this global giant has never been more pressing: China is constantly in the news, yet conflicting impressions abound. Within one generation, China has transformed from an impoverished, repressive state into an economic and political powerhouse. In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, Jeffrey Wasserstrom provides cogent answers to the most urgent questions regarding the newest superpower and offers a framework for understanding its meteoric rise.

Focusing his answers through the historical legacies--Western and Japanese imperialism, the Mao era, and the massacre near Tiananmen Square--that largely define China's present-day trajectory, Wasserstrom introduces readers to the Chinese Communist Party, the building boom in Shanghai, and the environmental fall-out of rapid Chinese industrialization. He also explains unique aspects of Chinese culture such as the one-child policy, and provides insight into how Chinese view Americans.

Wasserstrom reveals that China today shares many traits with other industrialized nations during their periods of development, in particular the United States during its rapid industrialization in the 19th century. Finally, he provides guidance on the ways we can expect China to act in the future vis-a-vis the United States, Russia, India, and its East Asian neighbors.

Excerpt

Who was Confucius?

Confucius (551 B.C.E.-479 B.C.E.) was a teacher and philosopher who lived during the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty (1045-256 B.C.E.), in what is known as the Spring and Autumn era (722 B.C.E.-481 B.C.E.). As with those of his near contemporary Socrates, none of Confucius’s writings have survived, and his views come down to us via a text produced after his death. This is the Analects, which contains short statements attributed to Confucius (the origins of the “Confucius says” fortune cookie slips, though these were invented either in Japan in the 1800s or in California in the 1900s) and dialogues between the sage and his disciples. The book covers a range of topics, from how a “true gentleman” behaves in his daily life (right down to how he eats with proper decorum) to how a ruler should govern (with a benevolent concern for the well-being of his subjects). One of its most famous statements, linked to both the high value placed on education in Chinese culture and the meritocratic aspect of the Chinese political tradition, is that people are pretty much alike at birth but become differentiated via learning. Another well-known adage from the Analects says simply that it is a great pleasure to have friends come to visit from afar.

This adage gained new fame on August 8, 2008, when it was quoted at the start of the Beijing Games. The line, which was . . .

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