Wealth and Power by Orville Schell
China's Long March to the Twenty-first Century

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An astute, knowledgeable and nicely accessible history and assessment of China for all readers.


Through a series of lively and absorbing portraits of iconic modern Chinese leaders and thinkers, two of today’s foremost specialists on China provide a panoramic narrative of this country’s rise to preeminence that is at once analytical and personal. How did a nation, after a long and painful period of dynastic decline, intellectual upheaval, foreign occupation, civil war, and revolution, manage to burst forth onto the world stage with such an impressive run of hyperdevelopment and wealth creation—culminating in the extraordinary dynamism of China today?
Wealth and Power answers this question by examining the lives of eleven influential officials, writers, activists, and leaders whose contributions helped create modern China. This fascinating survey begins in the lead-up to the first Opium War with Wei Yuan, the nineteenth-century scholar and reformer who was one of the first to urge China to borrow ideas from the West. It concludes in our time with human-rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, an outspoken opponent of single-party rule. Along the way, we meet such titans of Chinese history as the Empress Dowager Cixi, public intellectuals Feng Guifen, Liang Qichao, and Chen Duxiu, Nationalist stalwarts Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and Communist Party leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Zhu Rongji.
The common goal that unites all of these disparate figures is their determined pursuit of fuqiang, “wealth and power.” This abiding quest for a restoration of national greatness in the face of a “century of humiliation” at the hands of the Great Powers came to define the modern Chinese character. It’s what drove both Mao and Deng to embark on root-and-branch transformations of Chinese society, first by means of Marxism-Leninism, then by authoritarian capitalism. And this determined quest remains the key to understanding many of China’s actions today.
By unwrapping the intellectual antecedents of today’s resurgent China, Orville Schell and John Delury supply much-needed insight into the country’s tortured progression from nineteenth-century decline to twenty-first-century boom. By looking backward into the past to understand forces at work for hundreds of years, they help us understand China today and the future that this singular country is helping shape for all of us.
“Superb . . . beautifully written and neatly structured.”—Financial Times
“[An] engaging narrative of the intellectual and cultural origins of China’s modern rise.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Informative and insightful . . . a must-read for anyone with an interest in the world’s fastest-rising superpower.”—Slate
“It does a better job than most other books of answering a basic question the rest of the world naturally asks about China’s recent rise: What does China want?”—The Atlantic
“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.”—Foreign Affairs
“Excellent and erudite . . . [The authors] combine scholarly learning with a reportorial appreciation of colorful, revealing details.”—The National Interest

From the Hardcover edition.

About Orville Schell

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ORVILLE SCHELL was educated at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley and is the author of numerous books and articles on China. The former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Berkeley, he is presently the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York City. JOHN DELURY received his Ph.D. in modern Chinese history at Yale University, where he wrote his dissertation on the 17th century Confucian political thinker, Gu Yanwu. He taught Chinese history and politics at Brown, Columbia and Peking University, and was associate director of Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations. He is currently an assistant professor of East Asian studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea.

Author Residence: Berkeley, CA / China

Author Hometown: Berkeley, CA / New York, NY
Published July 16, 2013 by Random House. 496 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, Biographies & Memoirs, Business & Economics. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Wealth and Power
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Reviewed by Joseph Kahn on Jul 18 2013

This is not the first book to explore the legacy of the Opium Wars...But what it offers readers is the idea that the most important Chinese intellectuals and political leaders...were united in the national quest to avenge humiliation.

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on May 05 2013

An astute, knowledgeable and nicely accessible history and assessment of China for all readers.

Read Full Review of Wealth and Power: China's Lon... | See more reviews from Kirkus

The Economist

Above average
on Aug 01 2013

In the style of Jonathan Spence, the doyen of China historians, they do so through pen-portraits of 11 intellectuals and politicians who strove to change China after 1842. Running through this absorbing book is the sense that China’s leaders...all tried, in their own way, to avenge the country’s history of shame.

Read Full Review of Wealth and Power: China's Lon... | See more reviews from The Economist

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