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

Each year, scores of books appear purporting to explain where China has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Rare, however, is a book such as this one, which offers genuinely new insights into this vast and complicated country. Schell and Delury argue that for most of China’s recent history, the country has been consumed with the search for wealth and power: the desire to “see China return to greatness and honor.” They explore the debates and often fierce political battles that surround this quest through a series of fascinating portraits of Chinese thinkers and leaders. The cast of characters is wide-ranging. Some of those profiled, such as Mao Zedong, are familiar; others, such as the Qing dynasty scholar Wei Yuan, will be new to most readers. One of the book’s greatest strengths is its authors’ lack of ideological bias in selecting their subjects: few would think to place the much-reviled nineteenth-century empress dowager Cixi alongside the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. 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.

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