Top 10 China Books in 2021?

How should we judge the top ten China books in 2021?

The best China books are those that explain China’s amazing success–not those that constantly predict its failure. The Top China Book in 2021 is…

Imperial China by FW MoteImperial China, 900–1800, by F.W. Mote.  Mote’s wonderfully readable book is the essential starting place if you want to understand modern China. It is a history of China for the 900-year time span of the late imperial period. A leading scholar of this epoch, Mote highlights the personal characteristics of the rulers and dynasties and probes the cultural theme of Chinese adaptations to recurrent alien rule. No other book provides such a synthesis of generational events, personalities, and the spirit of the age combine to yield a comprehensive history of the civilization, not isolated but shaped by its relation to outsiders. This vast panorama of the civilization of the largest society in history reveals much about Chinese high and low culture, and the influential role of Confucian social ideals. Throughout the Liao Empire, the world of the Song, the Mongol rule, and the early Qing through the Kangxi and Qianlong reigns, culture, ideas, and personalities are richly woven into the fabric of the political order and institutions. This is a monumental work that will stand among the classics of all time.

Why China Leads the World: Talent at the Top, Data in the Middle, Democracy at the Bottom, by Godfree Roberts.  For everyone interested in understanding how China’s inevitable ascendancy is being accomplished and what it means for our world. It is essential reading not only for supporters of China, but China’s detractors as well and especially for those that are intelligent enough to know that they should inform themselves before developing an opinion on the topic. “Here Comes China” is divided into five parts and Roberts comprehensively addresses all aspects related to Chinese society. From history, to culture, to economics, to education, to healthcare, to their electoral system, not to mention the topics of censorship, human rights, and China’s approach to foreign policy, Roberts’ treatment shatters Western myths and reveals the meritocratic and pragmatic approach that is responsible for their unprecedented trajectory. If you have an interest in understanding China, this book is for you.

Third in the Top 10 China Books in 2021 is

The Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese villageThe Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village, by Dongping Han. Dongping Han’s book dares to ask if anything good happened during the Cultural Revolution, and focuses on his hometown of Jimo. Using oral history and archival records, Dongping Han gives a sense of what the Cultural Revolution meant for the rural Chinese who had been left behind, for the most part, after the success of 1949. He doesn’t say that everything was great and everyone had a great time  – he includes critical voices, and relays their critiques in good faith. However, he does give primacy to the perspective of the rural, and especially the poor, Chinese at the village level. The most common depiction of the Cultural Revolution in the English-language literature comes by way of memoirs and biographies from people who were already students when it began – as such, they were disappointed by the disruption and drastic changes in education (and personal life) that the Cultural Revolution brought about.


Gao Village by Mobo GaoGao Village: A Portrait of Rural Life in Modern China, by Mobo C.F. Gao. Before you read any Western ‘expert’ on ordinary Chinese life, read this one–because real village life is nothing like any experience you’ve ever had or even dreamed of. It is exotic and far more complex than our bland suburban lives. Life in Gao Village was always on the edge of survival and so simple that everyone made everything they needed, from food to clothing to their homes. The author’s family name, Gao, is the same as the village name and everyone in Gao village shares that last name: they’re all related, all members of a single clan with a unique history and customs. The author names names, tells about inter-village wars, starvation, feuds, tragedies and disappointments–and the people who endured it all, maintained their dignity and, in their own way, made China what it is today. I have learned that the author is working on a sequel that tells of developments in the last 20 years. Read this book now to make the most of the next episode!


Democracy: What the World Can Learn from ChinaDemocracy: What the West can learn from China (The Art of Media Disinformation is Hurting the World and Humanity. Book 1. by Wei Ling Chua. An in-depth, evidence-based analysis of democracy and good governance, using examples from Chinese and Western political systems based on theories, structure, processes and performance. The current Chinese political system is designed for widespread consultation and socialism as the core value whilst avoiding the flaws inherent in the design of the Western political model. Chinese politics wins a high level of citizen satisfaction in every public opinion survey, compared to Western democracy, but Western media has convinced the world that the PRC is autocratic. In reality, Western democracies are in serious trouble, facing an unprecedented level of debt, unemployment, political corruption in the form of political donations, advertising and lobbying, and social dissatisfaction. It is the Western political system that requires urgent reform, or risks a revolution from the 99% — its people — in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is time to have a look at the merits of the Chinese model.

Mao Zedong by MeisnerMao Zedong: A Political and Intellectual Portrait, by Maurice Meisner. A first-rate history! Comprehensive, balanced, and impartial.  The Manchurian campaign of 1948 illustrated, on a gigantic scale, the efficacy of classic Maoist military principles. In 1949, the politically victorious Chinese Communists inherited not only one of the world’s most backward economies, but one that lay in ruins. Progress in the Mao era must be measured from this miserable starting point. The Korean War, costly as it was in human life and economic resources, greatly fortified and expanded Mao’s already powerful nationalist credentials and thus his personal political power. As a youth, Mao read the authors who had molded the thought of China’s new Westernized intelligentsia – Adam Smith, Darwin, Mill, Herbert Spencer, Rousseau, and Montesquieu. Maurice Meisner is the preeminent expert on 20th-century Chinese history. The slightest amount of real understanding about our existence is far greater empowerment than the largest amount of blind faith.

Seventh in the Top 10 China Books in 2021 is

MAO TSE-TUNG AND I WERE BEGGARS. by SIAO-YU SIAO-YU Mao Tse-tung and I Were Beggars, by Siao-Yu. In 1912, Siao-yu and Mao Tse-tung were students in the same school in the city of Changsha in Hunan, a province famed for its bandits and heroes. Having discovered a deep mutual concern for the fate of China, the two met frequently for lengthy discussions on many subjects: teachings of the classics, ways of self-cultivation, reform of China, politics and government, and the latest news. A featured episode in the narrative is the begging trip through central China made by the two close friends during the summer of 1917. Mao frequently referred to this experience in interviews with journalists. The author’s own drawings throughout the text and in a special section after the narrative supplement these personal recollections of the formative years of Mao Tse-tung. The book is a unique, fascinating glimpse of the man whose imprint on human society is just beginning to be felt. Mao as an idealistic adolescent, passionately concerned for the future of his beloved China, then in ruins after a century of Western invasions. No better introduction to his thinking can be found.

Next in the the Top 10 China Books in 2021 is The China Trilogy, by Jeff J. Brown

Big Red book of ChinaBIG Red Book on China: Chinese History, Culture and Revolution

44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World

China Rising: Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations
Jeff J Brown’s three books, taken together, represent the best on-the-ground coverage of modern China, as one reviewer wrote, “The kind of book written by the academics who lived in China for 16 years and went through profoundly deep research on culture and philosophy of Chinese people. It is not a book written by someone who know China a just little bit. Jeff knows China more than most of average Chinese. If you want to know how they elect their leader in Chinese democratic system, read this book. It is a medicine to cure the Western propaganda infested knowledge about China.



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