“We hear, in the media and in comments by politicians, a lot of very glib statements that oversimplify China, that suggest all of China is one thing or one way,” says Michael Szonyi, a professor of Chinese history and director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University. China, of course, is as complicated as — if not more complicated than — any other country, and misunderstandings about it among Americans are both common and consequential. The relationship with China is “arguably — in anyone’s estimation — the most important bilateral relationship that the U.S. has,” says Jennifer Rudolph, a professor of modern Chinese political history at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Jennifer and Michael edited a book to address 36 questions that ordinary people, especially Americans, ask about China. The book is titled The China Questions: Critical Insights Into a Rising Power, and it draws on the expertise of the Fairbank Center and prompts these accomplished academics to write 2,000-word essays for a general audience that they typically never aim to reach.
View the entire list of questions on the Harvard University Press website. A sampling:“Is the Chinese Communist Regime Legitimate?” (by Elizabeth J. Perry) “Is There Environmental Awareness in China?” (by Karen Thornber) “Will China Lead Asia?” (by Odd Arne Westad) “What Does the Rise of China Mean for the United States?” (by Robert S. Ross) “Can China and Japan Ever Get Along?” (by Ezra F. Vogel) “Will Urbanization Save the Chinese Economy or Destroy It?” (by Meg Rithmire) “Why Does the End of the One-Child Policy Matter?” (by Susan Greenhalgh) “Why Do Classic Chinese Novels Matter?” (by Wai-yee Li)
Jeremy: Drawn Together: The Collected Works of R. and A. Crumb, by Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb. The husband-and-wife pair became known for their funny, vulgar comics in the late 1970s, though Robert’s zany work goes back a decade earlier.
Jennifer: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo. A work of creative nonfiction about a young boy and his family, and how the system is stacked against them.
Michael: The Fairbank Center website, which features a blog and a podcast. Also, Michael’s new book, titled The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China. And The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, by Greg Grandin.
Kaiser: The North Water: A Novel, by Ian McGuire. A dramatic tale that includes whaling, murder, and brutality, and whose overall flavor Kaiser describes as Joseph Conrad meets Cormac McCarthy meets Herman Melville meets Jack London.
The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: Part Two
The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: a conversation with John Pomfret on his new book
Beijing Meets Banjo: Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn
Edward Wong on foreign correspondence and dealing with censorship in China
Books, podcasts and the history of science in China with Carla Nappi
The delights of cooking Chinese food: A conversation with chef and author Fuchsia Dunlop
How has China changed in the past four decades? A conversation with John Holden
How will Donald Trump’s victory impact China and U.S.-China relations?
Love and journalism in wartime China: An interview with Bill Lascher
Why China bears are wrong: An interview with Andy Rothman
Suing for clean air and studying for the bar exam: Rachel Stern on China's legal system
Lines of fracture in Chinese public opinion: A conversation with Ma Tianjie
Mei Fong on the one-child policy, its consequences and what's next for China's demographics
Michael Manning: Behind bars in Beijing
Fan Yang on fakes, pirates and shanzhai culture
Frank H. Wu on Chinese-Americans and China
Andrew Ng on artificial intelligence and startup culture from Beijing to Silicon Valley
Filmmaker Daniel Whelan on Yiwu, a city at the core of cheap Chinese goods
What is cultural about the Cultural Revolution? Paul Clark on creativity amid destruction
It's all connected: Silk Roads old and new