The best books to understand modern China

Mobo C.F. Gao Author Of Constructing China: Clashing Views of the People's Republic
By Mobo C.F. Gao

The Books I Picked & Why

Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic

By Maurice Meisner

Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic

Why this book?

Generally speaking, there is a tendency both in China and the West to view the rise of China as the result of post-Mao reform. Mao is either perceived as a monster at worst or hopeless in economies at best. Deng Xiaoping takes the largest credit for China’s spectacular economic takeoff. Meisner is one of the first who presents a balanced view of China’s contemporary development, presenting convincing evidence to show that China’s industrialization and modernization started in the era of Mao.


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Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune

By Joshua Eisenman

Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune

Why this book?

This book, like Mao and After, credits the era of Mao with far more achievements than they are given by the political and intellectual elite in post-Mao China. This book particularly focuses on the collective system or what was called the Commune and exploits the technical innovation and economic developments under the Commune. This is in total contrast to the accepted wisdom that there was economic stagnation in the era of Mao


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Telling the Truth: China's Great Leap Forward, Household Registration and the Famine Death Tally

By Yang Songlin, Baohui Xie

Telling the Truth: China's Great Leap Forward, Household Registration and the Famine Death Tally

Why this book?

The accepted wisdom about the Chinese Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961 both in and outside of China is that the Great Leap Forward famine death toll was 30 million. This book challenges this wisdom. The book’s argument is based on the research of Professor Sun Jingxian who is a mathematician, who, after having examined the domestic migration pattern during the period, comes to the conclusion that the famine death toll was about 4 million.


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Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi

By Christian Sorace, Ivan Franceschini, Nicholas Loubere

Afterlives of Chinese Communism: Political Concepts from Mao to Xi

Why this book?

The fact that the edited book collects more than 50 world’s renowned scholars in the field is itself unique and worth reading. The other feature of the collection is that each scholar focuses on one topic, or one theme, such as class struggle, global Maoism, or poetry. In other words, each and any reader can find his or her topic of interest. “The masterful ensemble of essays challenges us to learn from China’s socialist past – its visions, accomplishment, and mistakes – as we contemplate our possible futures” as commented by one reviewer


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