Explains 1911 to 1989 in more political detail than you’ll ever need to know!
315 pages, ★★★
China Since 1911 is told from a purely political perspective. This book is a concise, authoritative historical account of the 1911 Nationalist revolution to the anti-reform protests of 1989. This period of history was one of China’s most tumultuous: warlords fought each other in the 1910s, the Nationalist regime collapsed into mini-states in the 1920s, Japan invaded in the 1930s, then World War II broke out in the 1940s. Widespread famine took root in the 1950s, the Cultural Revolution uprooted what little progress China had made in the 1960s, Mao’s death in the 1970s left China politically divided and spiritually lost, then anti-corruption protests spread across the nation from west to east in the 1980s, the most famous of which took place in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Only the last chapter of this book, when the dust starts to settle, does China show any signs of hope!
You’ll learn almost nothing about Chinese culture from this book. It documents the internal political struggles that gave rise to certain (crazy) decisions, but makes almost no comment on the social implications of those decisions. The text is littered with names of medium-level Chinese officials whom I’ll never remember. For a social history, I recommend reading Mao’s Last Dancer, Wild Swans or the soothing 窈窕淑女的标准（宋尚宫女论语研习报告）(Chinese) instead.
While China Since 1911 is extremely well-researched, there was not enough social emphasis for my liking. This book should be renamed China’s Political Leadership since 1911 instead. ★★★
- Beijing’s recommended reading list a must for ambitious officials (wantchinatimes.com)
- China Snuffs Out Discussion of Tiananmen (kahimyang.info)