CHINA FROM THE 1911 REVOLUTION TO LIBERATION by Jean; Francoise Le Barbier & Marie-Claire Bergère Chesneaux


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The period covered in this work has been subjected to intensive specialized study, and for good reason. In 1911, centuries of Imperial rule came crashing down, to be replaced by a Western-style political democracy. Instead, there appeared a new form of military autocracy, followed by more of the old disintegration and war-lordism. Then the epochal struggle between the nationalist and corrupt Kuomintang and the peasant-based Chinese Communists, resulting in one of the world-historical events of our time, the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949. That's a lot for any one book, but these authors are used to big projects, viz., China from the Opium Wars to the 1911 Revolution (1977). Theirs is a tight, terse book, divided into very short sub-chapters crammed with information. Each chapter is followed by bibliographical suggestions and selections from primary documents ranging from government reports to fiction to travel books. But this direct approach avoids pedantry through the high level of presentation and also because the authors have an argument to put forth. They emphasize the continuities in Chinese history, maintaining that the failure of Western-style modernization during 1911-21 brought a return to the two Chinese social traditions of peasant opposition to landlords and national resistance to foreign domination through the medium of the Communist Party. They de-emphasize intellectual influences, noting that the reliance on imported theories led the early Communists to a worker-oriented disaster. In this they take an opposite approach to that of Maurice Meisner in his new Mao's China (see below), and it pays off in giving their work a depth rare in books with so general a scope. A good, if somewhat dry, introduction to the period.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1977
Publisher: Pantheon