Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century

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Overview

Through a series of lively and absorbing portraits of iconic modern Chinese leaders and thinkers, two of today?s foremost specialists on China provide a panoramic narrative of this country?s rise to preeminence that is at once analytical and personal. How did a nation, after a long and painful period of dynastic decline, intellectual upheaval, foreign occupation, civil war, and revolution, manage to burst forth onto the world stage with such an impressive run of hyperdevelopment and wealth ...
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Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century

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Overview

Through a series of lively and absorbing portraits of iconic modern Chinese leaders and thinkers, two of today’s foremost specialists on China provide a panoramic narrative of this country’s rise to preeminence that is at once analytical and personal. How did a nation, after a long and painful period of dynastic decline, intellectual upheaval, foreign occupation, civil war, and revolution, manage to burst forth onto the world stage with such an impressive run of hyperdevelopment and wealth creation—culminating in the extraordinary dynamism of China today?
 
Wealth and Power answers this question by examining the lives of eleven influential officials, writers, activists, and leaders whose contributions helped create modern China. This fascinating survey begins in the lead-up to the first Opium War with Wei Yuan, the nineteenth-century scholar and reformer who was one of the first to urge China to borrow ideas from the West. It concludes in our time with human-rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, an outspoken opponent of single-party rule. Along the way, we meet such titans of Chinese history as the Empress Dowager Cixi, public intellectuals Feng Guifen, Liang Qichao, and Chen Duxiu, Nationalist stalwarts Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and Communist Party leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Zhu Rongji.
 
The common goal that unites all of these disparate figures is their determined pursuit of fuqiang, “wealth and power.” This abiding quest for a restoration of national greatness in the face of a “century of humiliation” at the hands of the Great Powers came to define the modern Chinese character. It’s what drove both Mao and Deng to embark on root-and-branch transformations of Chinese society, first by means of Marxism-Leninism, then by authoritarian capitalism. And this determined quest remains the key to understanding many of China’s actions today.
 
By unwrapping the intellectual antecedents of today’s resurgent China, Orville Schell and John Delury supply much-needed insight into the country’s tortured progression from nineteenth-century decline to twenty-first-century boom. By looking backward into the past to understand forces at work for hundreds of years, they help us understand China today and the future that this singular country is helping shape for all of us.
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
 
“Superb . . . beautifully written and neatly structured.”Financial Times
 
“[An] engaging narrative of the intellectual and cultural origins of China’s modern rise.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Informative and insightful . . . a must-read for anyone with an interest in the world’s fastest-rising superpower.”Slate
 
“It does a better job than most other books of answering a basic question the rest of the world naturally asks about China’s recent rise: What does China want?”The Atlantic
 
“The portraits are beautifully written and bring to life not only their subjects but also the mood and intellectual debates of the times in which they lived.”Foreign Affairs
 
“Excellent and erudite . . . [The authors] combine scholarly learning with a reportorial appreciation of colorful, revealing details.”The National Interest

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Joseph Kahn
…[an] engaging narrative of the intellectual and cultural origins of China's modern rise…This is not the first book to explore the legacy of the Opium Wars or the origins of Chinese nationalism. But what it offers readers is the idea that the most important Chinese intellectuals and political leaders, from the Empress Dowager Cixi to Deng Xiaoping, were united in the national quest to avenge humiliation. They all felt shame, and used it as the path to "wealth and power"…[Schell and Delury's] examination of how an unusual trait in Chinese culture worked its way through politics and intellectual life is a fascinating attempt to reconcile China's current success with its past suffering.
Publishers Weekly
Schell and Delury, both experts on China (the latter is the director of the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations; the former is a senior fellow there), track the intellectual and political pursuit of fuqiang, or wealth and power, by Chinese thinkers and leaders in response to the humiliations heaped upon their country by Western powers, beginning with the Opium Wars of the mid-19th century. The work comprises chronologically ordered minibiographies, stretching from Ming “scholar-official” Wei Yuan to present-day Nobel Peace Prize laureate and outspoken dissident Liu Xiaobo, with long sections devoted to Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. The heart of the book follows the path from the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 through the chaos of the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 demonstrations on Tiananmen Square, to the beginnings of economic prosperity under Deng. In the authors’ view, Mao’s “demolition of old structures and strictures” cleared the Chinese conceptual landscape, “making it ‘shovel-ready’ for Deng’s own ‘great enterprise’ of reform and opening up.” All along the road to fuqiang, the leading lights of China have been ideologically pragmatic, trading one concept for another as circumstances dictated. Considering China’s quickening ascendancy, this is a timely and crucial volume. Photos. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (July 16)
Library Journal
In the 1970s, China was an economic and international backwater reeling from the Cultural Revolution. Today, China has the second largest economy in the world and is a major player in international affairs. Schell (director, Center on U.S.-China Relations, Asia Soc.; To Get Rich Is Glorious: China in the 80s) and Delury (East Asian studies, Yonsei Univ., Seoul, Korea) explain that this dramatic transformation stretches back to the early 19th century. Their book is essentially 11 minibiographies of important Chinese thinkers and leaders from the early 19th century to the present. Through the stories of these individuals, readers learn about the broader picture of China's recent history, as well as how these figures contributed to the modernization of China. The authors deftly reveal how both Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution and Deng Xiaoping's economic reforms had their intellectual origins in the ideas of earlier thinkers. VERDICT This is essential reading for all students of modern Chinese history and those keeping up with international affairs. It is scholarly yet it will also be accessible to the interested general reader. Odd Arne Westad's Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750, which covers China's foreign relations over roughly the same era, complements it well.—Joshua Wallace, South Texas Coll. Lib., McAllen
Kirkus Reviews
From humiliation to glory: A vigorous scouring of the historical record by two crack Chinese scholars fleshes out the troughs and triumphs of Chinese greatness. It's helpful to remember that the rise of China didn't happen overnight, a fact that these elucidating essays demonstrate. Since China's humiliation in the mid-19th century at the hands of the imperialist powers, it has embarked on a path of self-criticism and self-strengthening, which Asia Society Center fellows Schell (Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood, 2000, etc.) and Delury find strangely affirming. China's Year 1 was the Treaty of Nanjing on August 11, 1842, signed with Britain after the disastrous three-year Opium War; Wei Yuan, a middle-ranking Qing official, found in its sad aftermath a need for reform of China's defense and international relations, even if it meant learning from the "barbarian" enemy. He refashioned the Confucian motto for the country: "Humiliation stimulates effort; when the country is humiliated, its spirit will be aroused." Feng Guifen, a scholarly administrator in the Qing dynasty based in Shanghai, similarly urged (in Dissenting Views from a Hut Near Bin) the need to "master the secrets of its new adversaries by admitting their superiority and adopting some of their ways, or perishing." Self-strengthening would remain the rallying cry, from Empress Dowager Cixi, aka Dragon Lady, to important reformist leaders Liang Qichao, Sun Yat-sen, Chen Duxiu, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. Their theme: The Chinese past was rotten, the failures needed to be exposed, and the future demanded new thinking. Deng Xiaoping's bold economic retooling invited China's later opening up by Zhu Rongji yet also unleashed democratic activism by such notable figures as Nobel Prize–winning writer Liu Xiaobo. An astute, knowledgeable and nicely accessible history and assessment of China for all readers.
From the Publisher
“Superb . . . beautifully written and neatly structured.”Financial Times

“[An] engaging narrative of the intellectual and cultural origins of China’s modern rise.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Informative and insightful . . . a must-read for anyone with an interest in the world’s fastest-rising superpower.”Slate
 
“It does a better job than most other books of answering a basic question the rest of the world naturally asks about China’s recent rise: What does China want?”The Atlantic
 
“The portraits are beautifully written and bring to life not only their subjects but also the mood and intellectual debates of the times in which they lived.”Foreign Affairs
 
“Excellent and erudite . . . [The authors] combine scholarly learning with a reportorial appreciation of colorful, revealing details.”The National Interest

“I know there are lots of China history books these days, but this one is really well done. It tells the story with lots of interesting historical characters and deep insights into the country. Really worth reading.”—Fareed Zakaria (Book of the Week)

“In a provocative new book whose ideas have already begun stirring debate among China watchers, Orville Schell and John Delury argue that the quest for national rejuvenation, or for wealth and power, has long been at the heart of modern Chinese political and intellectual thought.”The New York Times
 
“I highly recommend Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century, an excellent new book from Orville Schell and John Delury. The book goes a long way to explaining what drives the current leadership, and why betting against their resolve to reform may be risky in the medium to long term.”—Bill Bishop, The New York Times

Wealth and Power offers everything readers might expect from its two eminent authors. It is both sweeping and specific, authoritative and lively, sympathetic and critical, offering the perspective of both the hedgehog and the fox. The hardest challenge in writing about China, or finding things to read about it, is perceiving significant patterns while remaining aware of the chaos and contradictions. Orville Schell and John Delury meet that challenge in exemplary form. I only wish that they'd written the book years ago, so that (along with other readers) I could have been taking advantage of its insights all along.”—James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic
 
“Orville Schell and John Delury have delivered a brilliantly original and essential book: the road map to China’s quest for national salvation. This is a story of ideas and the vibrant figures who shaped them: rebels, thinkers, and rivals, united by the quest for reinvention. It is required reading for anyone seeking to understand China’s motives and the future of global competition, and is, quite simply, a pleasure to read. Vivid, literate, and brimming with insights, Wealth and Power deserves to become a classic.”—Evan Osnos, China correspondent, The New Yorker
 
“In Wealth and Power, their crisp and comprehensive introduction to the history of modern China, historians Orville Schell and John Delury present us with the historical background we need to understand the driving mechanism that lies at the center of China today. By no longer presenting China’s past two centuries as a record of recurrent failures and humiliations, they give us a portrait of a nation in the making, and of leaders with the skills and determination to redirect China’s energies on a global scale. The change of perspective is valuable and challenging.”—Jonathan D. Spence, author of The Search for Modern China

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679643470
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/16/2013
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 282,844
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.76 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Orville Schell was educated at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley and is the author of numerous books and articles on China. The former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley, he is presently the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York City.
 
John Delury received his Ph.D. in modern Chinese history at Yale University, where he wrote his dissertation on the Ming-Qing Confucian scholar Gu Yanwu. He taught at Brown, Columbia, and Peking University, and was associate director of Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations. He is currently an assistant professor of East Asian studies at Yonsei University in Seoul.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 12, 2013

    This is a good overview of the major figures who have had an imp

    This is a good overview of the major figures who have had an impact on China's history since the mid-19th century. Wei Yuan, Li Hongzhang, Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao, and a few others are described with the opinions of the authors on their signficance. While this is a very good book of biographies, it sometimes seems the authors are trying too hard to fit them into their themes of "wealth and power." Nevertheless, I definitely recommend this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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