Essential desk-side reference to help with the sifting and understanding of the enormous changes taking place in a China...




A sweeping, reasoned history portrays China as still caught in its age-old bind between authoritarianism and the need to join the world.

The nation’s economic transformation since the end of the 1970s under Deng Xiaoping has been “blinding and unprecedented,” notes journalist and China historian Fenby (Alliance: The Inside Story of How Roosevelt, Stalin & Churchill Won One War and Began Another, 2007, etc.). Moreover, it was achieved on the heels of a deeply flawed past not yet fully assessed and comprehended. The theory of the Mandate of Heaven—which gained its apotheosis during the Middle Kingdom and established a stratified master-servant relationship that ran from the court down to rural villages—is still reflected in the huge disparity of wealth between the top and bottom, the author avers. The arrival of Westerners eager for economic exploitation in the mid-19th century added to China’s instability. Fenby considers China’s booming present in terms of its convulsive recent history: the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911; the establishment of a republic; the election of revolutionary theorist Sun Yat-sen; anarchy of the warlords and aggression by the Japanese; debilitating civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists followed by the latter’s victory in 1949. The magisterial sections covering the “Rule of Mao” incorporate strands from China’s past to highlight the Great Helmsmen’s monstrously despotic policies, which used millions of lives as fodder for his increasingly irrational dreams. The author completes his thorough survey with an evaluation of the Deng era and the disastrous Beijing Spring of 1989, closing with a look at the recent regime’s efforts to maintain stability through a combination of ideology, reform and party loyalty.

Essential desk-side reference to help with the sifting and understanding of the enormous changes taking place in a China poised between the old and the new.

Pub Date: June 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-166116-7

Page Count: 740

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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