A detailed study of the rise to power of China’s dominant leader. In 1989, just before the debacle of the Tiananmen Massacre was to occur, Deng Xiaoping picked from seemingly nowhere an owl-faced, bespectacled man to lead China’s ruling Communist Party. This man, Jiang Zemin, went on to head not only the party, but China’s state and military apparatus as well. Gilley, Hong Kong correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, argues in this fascinating biography that Jiang’s rise was no accident, that he was, rather, the right man (and Chinese politics remains a man’s club) at the historically right time to lead China. Born in Yangzhou, a city near Shanghai, in 1926, Jiang at 72 is a relatively young man in the aged world of Chinese leadership. He rose steadily if unspectacularly in the party bureaucracy, mostly in Shanghai, and in the byzantine setting of factional strife that was the China of Mao Zedong, he learned the art of political caution, accommodation, and leading by consensus-building. He did not create, as did other leaders, “a private kingdom” within the party that was at once a power base and also vulnerable to attack. While Jiang had few ardent supporters, he also had few enemies. Once Deng picked him for greatness, he was generally acceptable to all power bases within the party. He has been able to expand his power by slowly winning influence over, rather than attacking and destroying, as in the past, those who oppose him. Jiang is no “emperor” in the mold of Mao or Deng, nor, Gilley explains, is such an autocratic style of leadership possible any longer in China; while China is certainly not a democracy, certain checks on the authority of even the top leaders do exist. Within this setting, Jiang has attempted, with success, to combine social stability with rapid economic growth. A well-crafted if overly long work that adds much to our understanding of the politics of modern China.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-520-21395-5

Page Count: 410

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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