A mixed bag—part hollow, jargon-y bureaucratic-speak, and part revealing, in-depth analysis.

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CHINA'S COMEBACK

HOW THE ORIGINAL SUPERPOWER IS REGAINING ITS PREEMINENCE

Lau gives a brief recap of China’s modern history and past, outlines the country’s current challenges and predicts where the “original superpower” is headed.

Although the title suggests a boundless, glowing optimism, one thing Lau cannot be accused of is being one-sided. Even while trumpeting China’s achievements—the rapid industrialization, the growing median income and standard of living of the Chinese people—the author takes an evenhanded look at the current and looming challenges for the country: the lack of technological innovation, excessive pollution and coming labor shortage. Far from a nationalistic screed, it’s often a balanced, realistic look at both the good and the bad. At other times, Lau seems to equate official government proclamations with taking real action. For example, while arguing that “China is taking serious steps to clean up its environment,” he cites not an actual instance of environmental clean-up, but the fact that “the construction of ecological civilization” was enshrined by the 17th Congress of 2007. For Lau—and for most Chinese, as he makes clear—official documentation holds an importance that Westerners have trouble grasping. Although he touches lightly on the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square, Lau should be given some credit for even acknowledging it at all. In fact, the author goes out of his way to mention the growing protests in China—and then pages later naively states that “everyone in the country seems to agree” that stability is the top priority, even over certain individual freedoms taken for granted in many Western nations. Is the reader to think that the protesters Lau writes about also “seem to agree”? The initial historic overview is readable and informative and offers much insight into the corporatist nature of China’s leadership. The chapters on Sino-American relations, environmental issues, democracy and economic and social development in China will be of great value to anyone with even a passing interest in global politics. However, other chapters have the dry tone of an official policy document—merely reworded for a global audience.

A mixed bag—part hollow, jargon-y bureaucratic-speak, and part revealing, in-depth analysis.

Pub Date: May 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1460979501

Page Count: 360

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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