30 recent books on my Intro to Contemporary China reading list


Preparing syllabi, reading lists and otherwise getting geared up for a new semester’s classes is always enjoyable. Wrestling with the admin and your e-learning environment less so, but for everyone involved in higher education late summer is a special time. This semester I’m teaching a freshman module (c. 200 students), Introduction to Contemporary China. It is a challenge to get the pitch right, not least because the composition of the student body is skewed towards students from the PRC. But it has prompted me to spend substantial time over the summer to read a lot of the newer literature on China, and to refresh some of the classics. It has reinforced my feeling that China Studies really is in great shape: so much excellent work being done across the board (theoretical, empirical, journalism and research).

My reading list is about 50% journal articles, 25% books and 25% online sources (media, blogs etc). I have reproduced 30 of the more recent books on the list below, with links to Amazon and author Twitter handles where available. The challenge with this freshman module, which covers a huge amount of ground, was to choose texts on the basis of excellence, accessibility, balance, recency and ‘pep’. Since students find accessing journal articles easier (all online and relatively short), it was important to choose book length work that will get the job done and stimulate interest. This list is obviously partial, and if there are glaring omissions (or missed Tweeters) let me know on Twitter @jonlsullivan

Kerry Brown-Contemporary China (Palgrave 2013). @Bkerrychina

Tony Saich, Governance and Politics of China (3rd Edition, Palgrave, 2011).

William Callahan, China Dreams: 20 Visions of the Future (Oxford, 2013)

Orville Schell and John Delury, Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty First Century. (Little Brown, 2013). @orvilleschell@JohnDelury

Richard McGregor, The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers (Penguin, 2011). @mcgregorrichard

Joseph Fewsmith, The logic and limits of political reform in China (Cambridge, 2013)

Johan Lagerkvist, After the Internet, Before Democracy (Lang, 2010). @Chinaroader

Barry Naughton, The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth (MIT, 2007).

Elizabeth Economy, River Runs Black (Cornell, 2010). @LizEconomy

Jonathan Watts, When a billion Chinese jump (Faber, 2010). @jonathanwatts

Kevin O’Brien and Li Lianjiang, Rightful Resistance in Rural China (Cambridge, 2006).

Lily L. Tsai, Accountability without Democracy: Solidary groups and public goods provision in rural China (Cambridge, 2007)

Susan Shirk, China: Fragile Superpower (Oxford, 2007).

William Callahan, China: The Pessoptimist Nation (Cambridge, 2010).

Robert Sutter, Chinese Foreign Relations: Power and Policy since the Cold War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).

Taylor Fravel, Strong Borders, Secure Nation (Princeton, 2011). @fravel

Nathan and Scobell, China’s Search for Security (Columbia, 2012).

David Sambaugh, China Goes Global (Oxford, 2013).

Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power Is Transforming the World. (Yale, 2007). @JoshKurlantzick

Deborah Brautigam, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa (Oxford, 2011). @D_Brautigam

Susan Shirk (ed), Changing Media, Changing China (Oxford, 2011).

Doug Young, The Party Line: How the media dictates public opinion in modern China (Wiley, 2013).

Anne-Marie Brady, Marketing Dictatorship: Propaganda and Thought Work in Contemporary China. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).

Guobin Yang, The Power of the Internet in China (Columbia, 2009). @Yangguobin

Zheng Yongnian, Technological empowerment: The Internet, State, and Society in China. (Stanford, 2008).

Kevin O’Brien (ed), Popular Protest in China (Harvard, 2008).

Shah & Wasserstrom (eds), Chinese Characters (Berkeley, 2012). @angshah & @jwassers

Teresa Wright, Accepting Authoritarianism: Sate-Society Relations in China’s Reform Era (Stanford, 2010).

Bruce Jacobs, Democratizing Taiwan. (Brill, 2012).

Lee Ambrozy (ed/tr), Ai Weiwei’s Blog. (MIT, 2011). @LeeAmbrozy

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