A frightening, vital wake-up call: The West ignores the rise of an Orwellian China at its peril.

WE HAVE BEEN HARMONIZED

LIFE IN CHINA'S SURVEILLANCE STATE

A chilling warning that China’s authoritarian rule is only growing more insidious.

In this highly relevant, frequently revelatory book, originally published in Germany in 2018, journalist Strittmatter, who has studied China for 30 years and was stationed in Beijing for a decade, argues that the opened-up China of Deng Xiaoping is an illusion. The state has used its new prosperity to essentially bribe the enlarged middle class to abide by increasingly autocratic measures, and the Chinese Communist Party has placed its leader, Xi Jinping, in a “godlike” position. “Both the Chinese people and the world at large have good reason to be nervous,” writes the author. Reintroducing an ideological mix of Mao, Marx, and Confucius, Xi is a brilliant technocrat who has engineered an authoritarian state. The election of Donald Trump, notes Strittmatter, has been a gift to China: confirmation of the West’s demise. While the West believed that China would gradually adopt democratic tendencies, that has not happened under Xi, who has strengthened the CCP and its ability to control the behavior and thought of the Chinese people: “He took on a diverse, lively, sometimes insubordinate society and did everything in his power to ‘harmonize’ it, as they say in China, stifling the voices of those who think differently and subordinating every last corner of society to the command of the Party.” In a systematic, well-written narrative, the author precisely examines the means by which China has achieved this “perfect storm…for democracies everywhere.” These include widespread censorship; the violent crackdown in Hong Kong; the continued persecution of the Muslim Uighurs minority, who have been subjected to a network of “re-education camps” not seen since the Nazi era; the misuse of technology to spread disinformation; the rewards system of “social trustworthiness” to keep citizens in line; and the use of terror and forced confessions. Strittmatter’s accessible yet hard-hitting narrative will find an audience with policymakers and general readers alike.

A frightening, vital wake-up call: The West ignores the rise of an Orwellian China at its peril.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-302729-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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