Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: China

This week we highlight, in no particular order, Outstanding Academic Titles regarding China.

Enjoy five selections from the Choice Reviews 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight, in no particular order, Outstanding Academic Titles regarding China.

1. Politics of control: creating red culture in the early People’s Republic of China
Hung, Chang-tai. Hawai’i, 2021

This intriguing and informative volume by Hung (Hong Kong Univ. of Science and Technology) seeks to explore how a system of cultural control was created and evolved to implement party-state decisions in the early years of the People’s Republic of China. Following an introduction, chapter 1 looks into the censorship of books, chapter 2 deals with censorship of the news, chapter 3 examines control of religion (both domestic and foreign), and chapter 4 investigates cultural centers, the lower-level propaganda stations designed to work closely with ordinary people. Chapter 5 focuses on education, which “was by definition political and class oriented”; chapter 6 reviews the Party’s control of public parks, which “signaled the reach and intrusion of the CCP into people’s leisure time and private lives”; and chapter 7 concerns museum architecture. In conclusion, the author suggests that “official directives on the correct approach to writing continue to emanate from the highest levels of the government.” View on Amazon

2. Chairman Mao’s children: generation and the politics of memory in China
Xu, Bin. Cambridge, 2021

Xu (sociology, Emory Univ.) provides one of the most comprehensive studies of the formation and representation of the memory of zhiqing, or the “sent-down generation,” urban youth who were sent down to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). Using mixed methods to analyze the life-history interviews of 87 zhiqing, literary works, museum exhibits, and participant observations of their commemoration activities, Xu reveals a dynamic picture of the memories of zhiqing at the individual, group, and public levels. He shows that class positions in the past and present generate considerable intragenerational variations in individual zhiqing memories about their personal experiences and historical evaluations of the send-down program. These variations create fault lines between different zhiqing groups. However, at the public level, elite members of the zhiqing generation control the representation of their experiences and highlight a positive zhiqing image to meet their political and economic agendas. Consequently, memories of the “losers” from the send-down program were marginalized or faded away. View on Amazon

3. Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and the lives of China’s workers
by Jenny Chan, Mark Selden, and Pun Ngai Haymarket Books, 2020

This insiders’ story about industrial protest within the international tech sector makes for an insightful volume. Authors Chan (Hong Kong Polytechnic Univ.), Selden (Cornell Univ.), and Ngai (Univ. of Hong Kong) seek to assess the extent to which the Chinese state and global tech corporations have fulfilled their responsibilities to protect workers in the context of transnational production. The book comprises 12 chapters. Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, is the focus of chapters 1–4. The coverage of chapters 5–8 ranges over student interns, human costs of technology empire-building, unsettled lives, love, and desire for consumption. The current environmental crisis, work-related injuries, industrial protests, and labor rights are treated in chapters 9–12. The authors believe that “when workers, with support at home and abroad, unite to reclaim their dignity and right to fair labor,” there is a chance of improvement. The case of Foxconn, including both its present international profile (plants in 29 countries and territories) and its proposed extensions into the US, Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, “could inspire a new round of global labor struggles.” View on Amazon

4. Why fiction matters in contemporary China
Wang, David Der-wei. Brandeis, 2020

Wang (Harvard), North America’s preeminent critic in his field, here augments his career-long deep thematic survey of all modern Chinese and Sinophone fiction. He analyzes classic writings of Lu Xun, Shen Congwen, Mo Yan, Yu Hua, Li Rui, and Yan Lianke, and “posthuman” fabulations by Taiwanese Lo Yi-chin and Wu Ming-yi, Chinese Malaysian Kim Chew Ng, and science fiction writers from Liang Qichao to Liu Cixin and Han Song. Wang classifies all this creativity into three kinds of boundary-crossing stories: fables of “transgression,” e.g., invasion of the Chinese or global community by human or extraterrestrial aliens and political enemies from within; tales of “transmigration” involving revenants, ghosts, specters, and reincarnations; and allegories of light and dark—of enlightenment and reality-piercing blindness (“transillumination”). The argument proceeds through poetic rhapsody and breathtaking free association, connecting Chinese works possessing biological, ecological, and cosmic themes to memes from Deleuze, Foucault, Heidegger, Agamben, and especially Derrida, who allows simultaneous conceptualization of light as darkness and the opposite of darkness. Wang serves up another intellectual tour de force. View on Amazon

5China’s leaders: from Mao to now
Shambaugh, David L. Polity, 2021

Renowned sinologist Shambaugh (George Washington Univ.) examines the five most important leaders of post-1949 China: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping. In the past 70 years, China has radically transformed from an isolated third-world country into a global player in terms of its politics, economics, military power, and social development. Shambaugh ascribes much of this dramatic evolution to the distinctive leadership styles and political tactics of these five singular individuals and their long-term achievements and contributions to contemporary Chinese politics. Though he touches on the significance of other leaders, Shambaugh’s primary focus on these five allows a deeply satisfying analysis of impact of these leadership styles on China today. In his account, Shambaugh casts Mao in the role of the tyrant, Deng as a pragmatist, Jiang as a bureaucrat, and Hu as a technocrat. He portrays Xi, however, as a modern emperor—the most intriguing of the group because his tenure is still in progress. View on Amazon

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