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Again the question, ""how much are they like us?"" Assembled for the China Council of The Asia Society, this volume includes, in addition to the editor's introduction, 15 essays by as many contributors evenly divided into five groupings: ""The Mind of Asia,"" ""Tradition and Change,"" ""Daily Life,"" ""The Hand of the State,"" and ""Culture."" Although the title implies unanimity, the specialists don't quite agree on the ""difference"" issue. Journalist Orville Schell stresses that the Chinese live a public life, with little of the trappings of our individualist culture, a contrast he drives home by a discussion of the absence of latent sexuality in Chinese social relations relative to our sexually-charged society, and by the observation that the concept of ""leisure-time identity""--so pervasive in Schell's native California--is nonsensical to the Chinese. Similarly, Donald Munro (Univ. of Michigan) sees little chance that the Chinese will ever accept Western notions of privacy, but he also thinks that the belief in useful knowledge shared by Americans and Chinese could be an important bridge. J. K. Fairbank (Harvard), as astute about China as any American, unravels the subtlety of the means employed for political expression in China, torpedoing Western-biased views that overlook the specifics of Chinese political genres. One of the strongest claims that the Chinese are not so different any more comes from Maurice Meisner (Univ. of Wisconsin), who argues that the Mao-inspired supremacy of Chinese Marxism has pushed the country toward Western patterns of economic and social development that ultimately override cultural differences. From different perspectives, Donald W. Klein (Tufts) and Jerome A. Cohen (Harvard) feel justified in assessing Chinese legal practices by Western standards of civil rights and due process. The other articles take various sides, and while all can agree that China is different, they can't agree on the degree of difference. None is very long or encumbered by academic deadweight, however, and while the main issue is never settled, they provide a good overview for the general reader.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row