In This Review

Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China's Push for Global Power
Everything Under the Heavens: How the Past Helps Shape China's Push for Global Power
By Howard W. French
352 pp, Knopf, 2017
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The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present
The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present
By John Pomfret
704 pp, Henry Holt, 2016
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On November 15, 2012, the day he became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping stood onstage at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing, to reflect back on his country’s 5,000 years of history. After citing China’s “indelible contribution” to world civilization, Xi called for “the great revival of the Chinese nation.” And he acknowledged that others had “failed one time after another” to realize that goal. Implicit in Xi’s remarks was a promise: unlike his predecessors, he would not fall short. 

Xi’s narrative of rejuvenation has resonated deeply among today’s Chinese. It places the country not only at the center of the international system but also above it, casting the nation as one that inspires emulation by the force of its advanced culture and economic achievements. It also evokes historical memories of a time when China received tribute from the rest of the

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