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

CPI Blog special issue on the NPC/NPPCC 两会

From March 5th China’s legislature (the almost 3000-strong National People’s Congress) will meet to pass legislation on the policy directions established by the Party at its Congress held in November last year. Although the NPC is not an autonomous body, indeed it is largely constituted by Party members and takes its lead from the Party Congress, the plenary meeting is an important part of the legislative mechanism. Furthermore, as the Party and state transition to a new leadership, the two meetings take on added significance as a valuable source of information on the direction the country will take under Xi Jinping. To decipher the political details and strategic subtexts, and to provide a broader perspective on the leadership transition and the prospects for reform in various policy sectors, the CPI Blog which I Edit has assembled a cast of renowned China scholars. You can find the blog here.

The confirmed line-up includes:

Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University.

Jun Zhang, Professor of Economics at Fudan University and Director of the China Center for Economic Studies.

Allen Carlson, Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University.

Linda Yueh, Fellow in Economics at Oxford University, Professor of Economics at London Business School and incoming Chief Business Correspondent at the BBC.

Lowell Dittmer, Professor in the Department of Political Science at UC Berkeley.

David S G Goodman, Professor of Chinese Politics and Academic Director of the China Centre at the University of Sydney.

Willy Lo Lap Lam, former CNN correspondent and Professor of China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Shaun Breslin, Professor at Warwick University, Associate Fellow at Chatham House and an editor of The Pacific Review.

Shujie Yao, Professor of Economics and Head of SCCS at the University of Nottingham.

Kerry Brown, Professor and Executive Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, and former Head of Chatham House Asia Programme.

Andrew Wedeman, Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University.

Zhengxu Wang, Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham.

Steve Tsang, Professor of Contemporary China and Director of the China Policy Institute.

CPI blog makeover

From February 18th I will be taking over the Editorship of the China Policy Institute blog. As part of the makeover I will be introducing regular weekly columns and periodic ‘special issues’. I am currently collecting expressions of interest for these and other features shown below. Traditionally academics have been the main contributors to the CPI blog, and I expect this to continue. However, in addition to inviting academics to contribute, I am keen for other voices to be represented. So media and policy folk, NGO-ers, bloggers, students please do get in touch.

University of Nottingham, China Policy Institute Blog-Jonathan Sullivan, Editor.

  1. Regular Columns (once a week):

Research Digest-review of new & recent academic publications (books/articles/policy papers)

This week in China-summary & brief analysis of key events in and related to China

Taiwan Notes– analysis of events in Taiwan

2. Special Issues (variable frequency-minimum once a month)

‘Special Issues’ will run for one week with multiple posts centred around a common topic area or theme. The following are slated to run in the next couple of months:

China-Japan relations; Xi’s challenges; Taiwan one year after Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election; Weibo politics; South China Sea territorial disputes

3. Emergency Response

The CPI blog aims to publish timely pieces in response to emerging events and stories coming out of China. Please contact me if and when events occur that are within your interests and you could write a short commentary/analysis piece.

4. Unplanned posts

You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to submit pieces at any time on any topic as long as it pertains to China and is within our remit to provide analysis and commentary.

Writing for the CPI blog is EASY—simply write 500-1000 words in a Word document and send to me by email. I will do the rest—including publicizing your post among the media and online.

The audience for the CPI blog is journalists, policymakers, fellow academics and the generally interested public. Posts should therefore be written in accessible language and include links to other sources online, such as media articles, YouTube videos etc. (simply paste the link into your Word document and I will embed it for you). Please consult previous posts on the CPI blog to see what kind of material is being published http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/chinapolicyinstitute/.

Ideas or queries, just mail me jonlsullivan at gmail