Most foreign policy experts agree that the U.S. relationship with China is one of today’s most significant geopolitical issues, with ripple effects that influence not just those two nations but the world as a whole. For our International Issue, I would like to highlight four books that will educate readers on China.

Ai Weiwei is arguably China’s most recognizable artist, though his outspoken activism means that he hasn’t been able to live in his home country in nearly a decade. In Zodiac: A Graphic Memoir (Ten Speed Press, Jan. 23), written with Elettra Stamboulis and illustrated by Gianluca Constantini, Ai chronicles a lifetime of repression and resistance. In our starred review, which calls this follow-up to 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows a “welcome introduction to the life and work of an exemplary artist,” Ai’s activist fervor is on full display. As our reviewer notes, “Ai continues to resist the Chinese regime, closing with the pointed observation, ‘Any artist who isn’t an activist is a dead artist.’”

As a famous TV journalist, Chai Jing is also unafraid of telling it like it is. Her memoir, Seeing: A Memoir of Truth and Courage From China’s Most Influential Television Journalist (Astra House, 2023), translated by Yan Yan, offers what our reviewer calls “poignant and thoughtful considerations of Chinese news stories from behind the scenes.” The author opens windows into the lives and struggles of ordinary Chinese people—stories that are often hidden or suppressed. “Admirably,” our review notes, “Chai includes commentary on her own unease at sharing the intimate details of victims’ lives, and she astutely identifies some of the ethical quandaries that confront anyone tasked with exposing individual suffering for the public’s ostensible benefit. Ultimately, readers will agree that these are important stories told with insight and sensitivity.”

Xiaolu Guo’s Radical: A Life of My Own (Grove, 2023) is another work from a provocative Chinese-born artist. Guo, whose book Nine Continents won the 2017 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography, is an acclaimed novelist and filmmaker, and Radical is a chronicle of her life journey, narrated via the author’s lifelong pursuit of what she calls “an etymology of myself.” Examining the mind-body connection, sexual joy, and how cultural differences manifest in art, Guo creates “an elegant and unreserved account of a life lived in full recognition of its possibilities.”

Anyone who follows the news is aware of the Chinese government’s reprehensible treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. Waiting To Be Arrested at Night: A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide (Penguin Press, 2023) by Tahir Hamut Izgil, translated by Joshua L. Freeman, is a courageous, often shocking account of one family’s experiences under the repressive regime and their efforts to find asylum in the U.S. In a starred review, our critic writes, “The text is lyrical, heartfelt, and perfectly paced; the narrative unfolds with a slow, simmering burn. Never shying away from vulnerability, the author shines a much-needed light on the complex, contradictory emotions of trading a homeland for a lifetime of both safety and survivor’s guilt.”

Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction editor.