A gem – Making China Modern: From the Great Qing to Xi Jinping

The strength of this 717-page book is that it presents the latest scholarship on the history of modern China. Klaus has reviewed the latest books and journals up to 2018.

And yet, this book which came out in Jan 2019 is already in need of a new edition as it does not deal with Trump and his reckless decision to launch a US China trade war.

This book is highly readable and covers the history of China from the rise of the Qing dynasty in 1644 to Xi Jin Ping in 2015. Readers looking for a readable one volume history of this period will benefit from this book as Klaus covers the period in broad strokes. The emphasis is on key political and economic events and changes in China history. Readers interested in the emperors like Kangxi, Chien Lung and leaders like Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai Shek, Mao, Chou En Lai and Deng should look elsewhere.

Klaus posits that his new history is to show that China’s recent ascendance is not strictly due “to changes in political leadership and economic policy” but to situate “21st century China in the nation’s long history of creative adaptation” through changes in its institutions beginning with the changes initiated by the Qing emperors after the humiliation of the Opium wars and the looting of Peking by British, French, German and Japanese soldiers followed by diplomats and missionaries. { page 184}.

However, upon completion of reading this book in 10 days over the Chinese New Year 2019 period, I can’t help but conclude that the ascendancy of China is due squarely to the leadership and policies of Deng Xiao Ping, a giant of a man not in stature but in achievements.

Deng opened up China and imposed a 2 five-year terms for the top leadership positions ( see page 502}.

On the Tian’anmen incident it is interesting to note that Klaus, a German Professor of Chinese History and Culture, did not echo the typical Western condemnation. Instead, he wrote ” the students asked for a face to face meeting on equal terms with party leaders.” and quoted a conversation Qiao Shi had with Zhao Zi Yang ” the troops have been blocked from entering, martial law is ineffective.. If this continues, the capital is in danger of becoming paralysed. ” { page 522-524}. I highly recommend this book.

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