For the CDT Bookshelf, China Digital Times invites experts on China to recommend a book to CDT readers. This month, James Mann, author-in-residence, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and former Beijing correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, recommends “To Change China: Western Advisers in China, 1620-1960” by Jonathan Spence, Little, Brown and Company, 1969.
Mann writes: This book, one of Spence’s earliest, remains the classic work on foreigners in China. It captures brilliantly the dynamics at play when outsiders, from whatever country and from whatever field or occupation, come to China and try to replicate the ideas or institutions of the West. At first, the book seems like merely a bunch of nice, readable portraits. But down around the time the reader discovers that Mikhail Borodin, the Soviet agent, has gone through roughly the same cycle of hope-and-frustration as Peter Parker, the Christian missionary, the point is driven home.
One more little-known favorite: Richard Solomon, “Chinese Negotiating Behavior: Pursuing Interests through ‘Old Friends.” (U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1999) The best analysis of China’s negotiating style, told through a blow-by-blow examination of how Mao, Zhou Enlai and other Chinese leaders of the 1970s and early 1980s dealt with the United States. This was originally a classified study done for the U.S. intelligence community. I can’t pretend to be entirely neutral about this book: it was my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA which got the study declassified, and my own “About Face” owes much to Solomon’s fascinating, groundbreaking work.
–John K. Fairbank’s review of “To Change China: Western Advisers in China, 1620-1960” from the New York Review of Books (subscription only).
–A list of books by Jonathan Spence, via Amazon.com.
–A New York Times book review of Mann’s “About Face.”