THE UNITED STATES AND CHINA, 4th ed. by John King Fairbank
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For 30 years, this has been the best general introduction to the Chinese political system. The reason for this longevity, aside from the brilliance of the Harvard sinologist's original effort, is that Fairbank has repeatedly updated his work--first in 1958, then again in 1971--in each instance restructuring the text and absorbing the best new scholarship. Even the recent recognition of China is accounted for, adding date-line currency to Fairbank's analysis of the post-Vietnam, post-Mao world. Rooted, as always, in ancient Chinese culture, Fairbank emphasizes the continuities in Chinese political thought and institutions, especially the strong moral, Confucianist strain which underlies Chinese efforts to promote community welfare and which is allen to western notions of individual rights. He also emphasizes, once again, the dynastic and familial traditions which explain the ups and downs of factionalism in the People's Republic, but breaks with the past in stressing the modernization which has accompanied them. There are some ominous suggestions in the new material; while anticipating that the ideological climate after Mao would ease relations between the U.S. and China, Fairbank observes that if the new pragmatism ignores the social cleavages that gave rise to the Cultural Revolution, social revolution could resurface. And he closes the book with the worry that increased technological flows to China could rekindle the age-old tensions between town and countryside which Mao tried to abate. Fairbank's historical approach allows us to grasp the enormity of these problems for China's future. A book of love and great learning which is always contemporary is once again made up-to-date.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press