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Best China Books of 2020

recommended by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink
by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

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All eyes are on China as it occupies an increasingly important role on the world stage and its economic growth continues to barrel on. But behind the Chinese Communist Party's apparent competence lies a deep insecurity about its relationship with its own citizens, particularly those who question its right to rule them. American historian and Sinologist Jeffrey Wasserstrom picks the best books of 2020 on China.

Interview by Sophie Roell

Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink
by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Read

Before we get to the books, where would you say China is at in 2020, in general? Is it following other countries in the region in gradually becoming more democratic or is it moving further away from that than ever?

One of the things I’ve been struck by lately is that since 2008 there hasn’t been a period when, over the course of a year or two, things have gotten looser in China. There’s an old idea that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would periodically go through a couple years of tightening and a couple of years of loosening. Some people are still expecting that, and it just hasn’t been happening.

Under Xi Jinping there’s been a steady period of tightening, but I think it actually began before him. It was partly after the Olympics and after China did comparatively well during the early financial crisis that there has been a pattern of increasing nationalism and a variety of it particularly focused on doing away with local variations. There’s been a mixture of cockiness and insecurity on the part of the government and a combined emphasis on nationalism and tightening control over society and bragging about China’s resurgence at the same time as trying to engage in a kind of cultural homogenisation.

But I think it’s worth seeing Xi Jinping as being in step with a fairly widespread trend in other places in the 2010s, the rise of what I’d call muscular nationalist strongman-style leaders. Some of them rose within closed political systems but some were elected in open political systems and then damaged democratic institutions. So, I see China as in some ways going very much on its own course, but also being part of that authoritarian wave: a figure like Putin, who rose early, looms large in this pattern, but you can see many muscular nationalists of different sorts around—Modi in India, Trump in the United States, Orbán in Hungary.

Another thing we realized in the 2010s in many places is that things we thought were safely in the past turned out to be dormant and have risen up again. In China we had the return of personality cult-style leadership, which we thought was in the past. There have been other kinds of nationalism and xenophobia in different countries that people of progressive views wanted to imagine we’d moved beyond but have also resurfaced.

Do you think Xi Jinping will do a third term as president or did he just extend the term limit to make sure that people didn’t spend his entire second term jockeying for power?

Xi Jinping’s power really comes from being Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party. He’s shown no sign of selecting a successor or allowing anybody to clearly be a successor. By this point in time, with both Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, we had a clear idea of who was waiting in the wings and there’s nobody. It’s clearly a personalistic form of rule that we don’t yet have a clear sense of, in part because it’s a change from what we’ve grown used to as observers. The ending of the presidential term limit is part of the mix, but just one symptom of a broader shift.

Let’s go through the books you’ve selected as the best to read on China, published in 2020. First up is Aftershock, which focuses on the crisis in Hong Kong. Maybe first fill us in on what’s going on in Hong Kong in general and then how this book ties in.

In Chinese studies the first subject that I was really interested in, and have stayed with, is the study of mass protests—especially ones in which students and other youth play a leading role. My dissertation was on pre-1949 student movements on the mainland and then I was also very interested in Tiananmen, which happened just as I was finishing my graduate work. I had gone to Hong Kong regularly since 1987, but I had never thought of it as a place that I was studying until 2014, when it was the site of the biggest protest movement in which young people took a leading role than had happened anywhere in the People’s Republic of China since 1989. This was called the Umbrella Movement and it tried to bring democracy to Hong Kong, which has never been democratically governed but has had semi-democratic institutions. It was a drive to try to bring in real, open elections for the chief executive—the most powerful person in the territory—but it quickly became a struggle to defend the right to protest itself. The movement grew when police in Hong Kong, who had tended to treat protest very gently compared to any place else in China, used tear gas against protesters. That brought a lot of people out on the streets and the movement became a fight to defend the things that made Hong Kong different: a more vibrant civil society, greater freedom of speech and the right to protest. That struggle ended without a change in the voting system to universal suffrage, but it was an important move to defend local rights.

Then, during the next five years, there were a variety of events that local people saw as Beijing encroaching on Hong Kong, trying to make it more like a mainland city and being aided in this by the chief executive and other proxies of the capital. There were sporadic protests to push back against that, to try to defend Hong Kong’s differences.

“It’s clearly a personalistic form of rule that we don’t yet have a clear sense of, in part because it’s a change from what we’ve grown used to”

Hong Kong, since 1997, has had a ‘one country, two systems’ framework where it’s supposed to be part of China, but have certain things that are done differently. To put it really simply, Beijing and its local proxies have wanted the ‘two systems’ part to just mean economic systems while local people have been fighting to have it mean the cultural and political systems as well. So, there has been a back and forth with protests and then moves of repression.

Then, in 2019, a new protest wave broke out, this time against an extradition bill that was seen by local people as doing away with the rule of law in Hong Kong. The Umbrella Movement had been the biggest, longest-lived urban protest movement in the PRC since Tiananmen. This movement in 2019—which again became largely a movement for the right to protest itself and against police brutality—became much bigger. It drew bigger crowds, it lasted longer and was clearly the first really giant sustained urban-based mass movement in the PRC since Tiananmen. So that’s the context behind this and that’s why there have been books coming out, including one that I wrote.

Yes, before we get to Aftershock, maybe tell me about Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink and what you were trying to do in that book, as it also came out in 2020 and helps set the scene.  

Vigil was my effort to write a very short book in a series of very short books called Columbia Global Reports. These are in between really extended magazine pieces and fully-fledged books and are either by journalists who have a scholarly bent or scholars who have a journalistic bent.

Which is a great format.

Yes, I was a fan of the series as a reader before I got to write for it. I wanted to include reportage and some of my experiences spending time in Hong Kong, meeting some of the activists, including Joshua Wong. I combined that with a brief history of the city and an effort to connect the events in Hong Kong to the history of protest in China as well, because I really got fascinated by the Hong Kong protests because they felt in part like a continuation, in a new setting and register, of the tradition I had been studying on the mainland. That tradition had been suppressed on the mainland but had taken on this new and different life in Hong Kong, ironically at the very moment when Hong Kong people were becoming more and more concerned with having an identity separate from China. The protesters were also drawing on international currents of youth activism.

In the book, I bring in comparisons with protests in China’s past and comparisons with other places as well, such as the Eastern European protests against Soviet rule. I think of Hong Kong now as being, in some ways, like countries that were part of the Soviet empire, but not in the Soviet Union, before 1989. I see parallels between the Hong Kong protests and the Prague spring and the Solidarity movement in the late 1970s, early 80s in Poland—protests that were suppressed the way the Hong Kong ones were.

I thought I would end Vigil with the 30th anniversary of the June 4th massacre. I knew I would be in Hong Kong for that and thought I would end up wondering how much longer that kind of event—which is so different from what can happen on the mainland—could continue happening in Hong Kong. But then, when the protests exploded right after that, the book became as much about the 2019 protests that I saw the beginning of, but watched from afar. I wrote the book over the summer of 2019 and it became very much a first draft of history.

Tell me about Aftershock: Essays from Hong Kong, which is a collection of essays by journalists edited by Holmes Chan, who is himself a Hong Kong journalist. Why did you choose it as one of the best books to read on China for 2020?

It’s just a moving book to me. It’s beautifully written. It’s made up of personal essays by journalists, some of whose reporting I was reading regularly to keep up with the news from Hong Kong. One of them, Elaine Yu, who is now writing for the New York Times, I got to know well between 2015 and 2019 when I was traveling there. We co-wrote a piece together once. Both her chapter and those by the other journalists who contributed are heartfelt pieces that wouldn’t have fit in newspapers because they are so personal, so emotional, so raw. They deal with issues of fear and hope and the ethical struggles they faced covering, as news, something that was happening in a city they loved, in the city they had grown up in.

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Most of the essays are by Hong Kongers. There is one by a mainland journalist who has been living in Hong Kong and writes anonymously. There’s one chapter by a journalist from Taiwan. It’s a very small book, almost pamphlet-like. Each essay is different, but each of them links up in the sense of being by a journalist writing in a mode that journalists are usually steered away from writing in. It’s more like the way columnists sometimes write, but we don’t usually get columnists right in the thick of something that’s a fight for their own city. It has an immediacy and a power that I just find deeply moving.

They strike me as so young and then, because of what happened on June 4th, 1989, so vulnerable. I feel nervous about what the Chinese government might do to them.

They’re very young, but some of them are writing about people even younger than they are. They’re in their 20s, but as the movement has gone on even younger people have taken to the streets. The authors are roughly the same age as some of the key figures from the Umbrella Movement, like Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Nathan Law. I couldn’t think of a book that came out about Tiananmen that was comparable, but the text that I thought about was the interviews in the Gate of Heavenly Peace documentary, which has some very powerful interviews with students and also some workers who were in their 20s. Aftershock has that same feel.

And haven’t quite a few of the protesters fled to Taiwan?

Some have gone to Taiwan, as well as to Germany, the UK and Canada. But, as far as I know, most or all of the journalists who contributed to Aftershock are still in Hong Kong. I really admire their bravery because it’s a very challenging time to be a journalist.

And did Covid basically shut down the protests? Where are we at now?

December 8th was the day of the last really big protest of 2019 and it was a legally authorized march. I happened to be in Hong Kong for a week then, so I attended it. Over 100,000 people took to the streets in a legally authorized march, singing “Glory to Hong Kong”, which you could be arrested for singing now. There has been no authorization of marches for months and it’s not clear if there ever will be again. There was a big march on New Year’s Day, but for most of 2020 Covid has been used as the reason not to allow gatherings. There was also an election cancelled in September, with Covid given as the reason. But there are ways to hold elections during Covid times, as we’ve seen. The vigil was not allowed to take place on June 4th and again Covid-19 was used as the reason. People still turned out on June 4th. They socially distanced themselves for the most part but it was considered illegal and people were arrested.

“I think of Hong Kong now as being, in some ways, like countries that were part of the Soviet empire”

There were still some protests early in the pandemic, in part because the local government wasn’t listening to experts. They were taking their cues from Beijing on how to respond. They were allowing the border with the mainland to stay open, when the mainland was the epicentre for a while, but immediately closed the border to South Korea when South Korea became the epicentre. For locals, that meant it was only the ‘one country’, not the ‘two systems’, that matters now. Then Beijing took advantage of the global distraction of the pandemic to impose a very harsh new law against sedition. It’s a national security law that carries very strong penalties for anything deemed to even gesture vaguely toward separatism, even moves that in the past would be seen as just expressing love for a locale. All sorts of things that used to be fine to do are illegal. That was imposed on June 30th and there’s been a rollout of arrests.

Clearly discontent will continue and resistance will continue, but it’s going to have to take a different form. It’ll take subtler forms. Again, I think of Eastern European parallels, when Poland was under martial law in the 1980s, and what happened in Taiwan for a long period when it was under martial law after protests there were repressed in 1947.

We’d better move on to Xinjiang and what’s going on there. The book you’ve chosen is a history looking at the region over a long period. It was published a while ago, but 2020 saw a new and revised edition, with the author adding a chapter about what’s been going on with the internment camps.

Yes, it’s called Eurasian Crossroads and it’s by James Millward who is, I think, the preeminent American scholar of Xinjiang, certainly among historians. He’s also, since we were talking about short books before, written a beautiful slim history of the Silk Road for the OUP VSI series. He’s done a lot of different work, but this is a classic work of putting Xinjiang into historical perspective that came out in 2007 and he has just updated. He is one of the historians of China who, while his heart is in periods of the past, is continually looking at contemporary issues that you just can’t turn away from if you work on a place that’s undergoing new kinds of repression. So, I was very pleased when this very accessible, well written history of Xinjiang came out with a new section on the rise of this massive network of camps into which Uyghurs—especially Muslim Uyghurs, but also members of other Turkic ethnic minorities—have been disappearing in Xinjiang.

This year actually has seen a burst of good writing on Xinjiang: a lot of journalism and scholarly work and a couple of other very good books have come out. The reason this one stood out for me is that there are others that focus on the present or on specific earlier periods. But this one combines a smart discussion of history with a close look at what’s happening now. It presents the camps as both linked to the moves against the Uyghurs in earlier periods, but also points out the novelty of things during a period when there’s more emphasis on forced assimilation and also moves towards what Millward refers to as ethnocide, of trying to blot out the Uyghurs as a clearly defined, separate cultural group.

I was last in Xinjiang in 2013. We were just on a family holiday with the kids, but the Uyghurs were pretty miserable about everything that was going on and Kashgar seemed to be being physically destroyed in front of our eyes. With these internment camps, there seems to be a lot more international attention being paid to Xinjiang: is that because finally we’ve turned our attention to what is going on or is it because things have got considerably worse recently?

Things got considerably worse a few years ago. This is something that Millward shows very well. There have been long-term tensions between the centre and Xinjiang. Xinjiang means new frontier or new territory and it didn’t really become part of the political Chinese state until the 19th century, when it was essentially conquered by the Qing. Then, periodically, there were tighter or looser forms of control there, more or less willingness for there to be a flourishing of a separate Uyghur identity, culturally.

When Millward did the first edition of the book, he ended it with a chapter on balancing acts. We can see this in Hong Kong too, but he talks about the effort by Beijing to balance the desire to have a very different kind of place be part of the country, while realizing there needs to be some ability for it to go in a different direction. He also talked about figures like Ilham Tohti, who were also involved in personal balancing acts. He was a professor, a part of the Chinese system, and was trying to carve out a distinctive space by encouraging moderating moves by the centre toward Xinjiang as well as moderate forces within Xinjiang. You could still think of that kind of balancing act up until around 2009, but not since then. 2009 was a very tense moment with all kinds of complicating developments that Millward talks about in the new chapter. But one thing we’ve seen is Tohti, who was this moderate figure, ending up—even for things that in an earlier period might have been seen as balancing—being seen as crossing red lines. He has disappeared into a prison cell, potentially forever.

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To me there’s a parallel with Hong Kong. It’s totally different and in Xinjiang there’s the camp system, which hadn’t been there before and came into existence a few years ago. There are also other forms of repression. But I do see it as of a piece with what’s been happening in Hong Kong, where we’ve also seen even moderate figures being sentenced or driven into exile. Millward ends by saying that a critical stance toward Beijing makes these balancing acts by Uyghurs impossible, at least for now, and I think that would be an apt way to think about the situation of Hong Kong too, as different as it is.

Let’s move to Tibet now, and a book called Forbidden Memory: Tibet during the Cultural Revolution by Tsering Woeser. This book looks like it has the most extraordinary photographs. Is it a history book or is there also a link to the present?

For me, reading wise, this has been a year of reading a lot about the peripheries of the People’s Republic of China. These are peripheries that I used to think of as very different because Hong Kong was by far the freest and Tibet and Xinjiang the most tightly controlled, which is still true, but I do see the first three books on my list as fitting together thematically in certain ways.

It’s been a year with a burst of publishing on Tibet and this isn’t the only good book that’s come out. Forbidden Memory is about the Cultural Revolution era, and the Mao years in general. Tsering Woeser is a woman originally from Tibet who is living in Beijing and is one of the most interesting critical intellectuals in the PRC right now.  She’s another one who’s been trying to carry out a balancing act—of being a voice keeping attention on Tibet without ending up in prison, and she has managed it so far, though she’s been hassled in plenty of ways and had her movements constricted.

The photographs in this book are powerful for many reasons. One is they show the way in which the Communist Party has convinced and coerced members of local populations to be complicit in the repression that goes on. I think of Xinjiang, Tibet and increasingly Hong Kong as colonial setups where there are members of the colonized population who are convinced, cajoled or coerced into carrying out repression; pressured, persuaded or forced to become collaborators. That’s clearly true in Hong Kong now with figures like Carrie Lam, but it’s been true in Tibet and Xinjiang as well. The photographs are largely of Tibetans engaged in loyalty rituals associated with Mao struggle sessions. They have Woeser’s own glosses on the photographs, which were taken by her father. The book is a beautiful work, but it also comes with an introduction by Robert Barnett, who is one of the leading writers on Tibet in the West. He’s written a great history, in very accessible short form, of Tibet up to the Mao era.

“It’s almost as if the international imagination can only have one part of western China to focus on at a time”

The story of Tibet in this period is a tragic and moving one because, initially, when Tibet was incorporated into the People’s Republic of China, there was a promise that it would be able to maintain its own distinctive way of life and that Tibetans would have a high degree of religious freedom. The term ‘one country, two systems’ wasn’t used, but as Isabel Hilton and others have argued, you can see the arrangements made in Tibet as a kind of precursor to the arrangements made for Hong Kong. That ended in a very tragic way in the late 1950s.

Barnett gives a very good brief history of that, very well written, and that’s combined with the photographs and the explanation of the photographs. This was an important publication in Chinese, that circulated in Taiwan before, but this is the first translation. Like the Millward book, it’s both a new book and a reboot of an earlier one, in this case via assured translation work by Susan Chen.

Is it quite a personal and moving book, given it’s her father’s photos?

The story of it is, but it strives very hard to be a documentary record of a period that could be forgotten.

Publications on Tibet are important this year, because the repression in Xinjiang is finally getting more attention, but it’s almost as if the international imagination can only have one part of western China to focus on at a time. For many years that was Tibet and Xinjiang was ignored, now it’s the other way around. But they’re connected. One of the main architects of the camp system in Xinjiang had been overseeing Communist Party policies in Tibet before being transferred to Xinjiang. There is a way in which the two places are seen as parallel problems, from Beijing’s point of view.

Next up on your list of best China books of 2020 you’ve chosen a book called Beijing From Below: Stories of Marginal Lives in the Capital’s Center by Harriet Evans. I guess this is a book that demonstrates that you don’t have to be on the edges of the PRC to have a really hard life in China. Tell me a bit about it.

I’ve always been concerned with the need for us to resist thinking of all of China as a single entity. When people say, ‘How do people in China feel about x?’ you have to say, ‘Are we talking about Han Chinese or members of other ethnicities? Are we talking about people in the countryside or people in the cities?’ But this book shows that, even within a single city, there can be a dramatic difference in experiences and modes of life.

Harriet Evans is a historian who has consistently worked the borderlands between history and ethnography. She uses a lot of the techniques and asks a lot of the questions that we’re more used to finding people ask when they’re studying villages in China, than when they’re studying a city. She deals with this ironically marginalized population living at the very centre of Beijing, near the Forbidden City.

She’s spent a long period of time getting to know the people, gaining their trust and talking to them. She’s a historian of gender so there’s a lot of concern in the book with the different experiences of men and women and members of different generations as well. It’s like a work of ethnographic journalism, almost, that gives you a feel for the lived experience and differences among individuals.

But it’s also a community study of this section of Beijing and what it’s gone through. The main figures in her book are people who have never really had a moment when their lives dramatically improved—in the way that the Revolution was supposed to have dramatically improved their lives after liberation. Their lives also didn’t dramatically improve when the reform period happened, and money began to be made in China. They were continually on the margins.

One of the things that’s powerful about this book is that the major standout events in a political, top-down history of Beijing aren’t necessarily the things that are the key marking points in these people’s lives. It’s a very ground’s eye view of the Mao years and the period after that, which gets you to rethink a lot of your assumptions about the shape of China during the last 70 years.

And is this one of those areas of Beijing with hutongs and makeshift, one storey buildings, shared toilets etc?

Yes, the alleyways. Then one of the issues, which happens in other cities as well, is that when there’s a move to gentrify or to rebuild, do people view it as an improvement or a destruction of the fabric of what was meaningful about their life? They’re relocated to ostensibly better conditions, but away from the rhythms of the life they’ve known.

Another thing I like about this book is that when I do things like this, recommending books, I don’t want to suggest a book that only people who are academics in a particular field will be able to read. This is an example of a book by a sophisticated scholar that is also an engaging read.

Does it have photos?

There are quite a lot of them. Evans worked closely with a local photographer, Zhao Tielin, while researching the book. He died before it was completed, and Evans dedicates the book to the people of the community as a whole and him in particular.

We’re at the last of your choices of the best China books of 2020. This is Champions Day: The End of Old Shanghai by James Carter. Why this book?

Shanghai is the first city in China I lived in and the first I studied, and what got me interested in specializing in Chinese history as a field were beautifully written books that had a strong storytelling dimension to them. I was always interested in protest‚ but I was also interested in the kind of writing that in the 1980s at least was particularly associated with Jonathan Spence: imaginative recreations of China’s past that were rooted in research but driven by stories. The person who trained me, Frederic Wakeman, was also a great storyteller in that way.

Champions Day is a wonderful foray into this kind of historical recreation and does it via a single day at the Shanghai races when the Japanese are about to shut down horse racing. Carter was a student of Jonathan Spence’s. Not that it’s derivative, but it continues that genre within Chinese studies.

“I think of Xinjiang, Tibet and increasingly Hong Kong as colonial setups”

It tells the history of the city in part by spinning off of people who are at the races: some Chinese, some Western, some neither, some in between, people from different locales and social stations within Shanghai. It’s a creative reimagining of a city on the cusp—at a particular moment when war was ending one incarnation of the metropolis. Shanghai as the amazingly cosmopolitan and freewheeling place it had once been would never really recover, because it went from being occupied by Japan to being under authoritarian rule under the Nationalist Party and then under the Communist Party. It’s a re-creation of a lost world, of the hybridity and messiness and unfairness, as there was a dark side to it, that defined Shanghai for the period when it was divided and partly colonized—but never fully colonized.

In a way we’re circling back, because the space that Shanghai filled in the international imagination, and the special place it was, is what you might have said about Hong Kong. When those features disappeared in Shanghai, they re-emerged in Hong Kong. In Shanghai too there were people who left to go to places where they could try to live. Hong Kong was one of the main places that they fled to. So, there are a lot of echoes between Shanghai at that point and Hong Kong in the last few years. And there were great horse races in both. Horse racing was a defining sport in old Shanghai and has been in Hong Kong too.

Old Shanghai just has this incredibly exotic, glamorous image, doesn’t it? I suppose what makes it so fascinating is that it did disappear so suddenly.

Some of my all-time favorites on Old Shanghai continue to be Lynn Pan’s and there are continually good books on it coming out. Recent ones I’ve liked have been a couple by Paul French and Last Boat Out of Shanghai, which is by a Chinese American writer, Helen Zia, whose mother left the city around the time that Carter’s book is set.

Lastly, did you want to say something about China-related fiction you’ve been enjoying?

There weren’t any works of fiction published in 2020 that stood out to me as one of my five books, but I’ve been spending more time reading works from other years by a writer who I just recently discovered, Xue Yiwei. He’s a Chinese writer now living in Canada. At the beginning of this year, I was enthralled by one of his books, Dr. Bethune’s Children. I’ve also read a couple of stellar short stories this year by Te-Ping Chen, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has a book coming out in 2021 called Land of Big Numbers, which is her first collection of short stories. Her stories, like some in a Yu Hua collection of a few years back, are partly linked to current events in China, but they’re also richly imagined works and each one’s in a different genre—or at least has a different feel to it. I’m very taken with that book, that I’ve been reading in galleys. Also in 2021 a new translation of Journey to the West/Monkey King is coming out. Julia Lowell has done an abridged translation and I’ve been reading that. So I see 2021 as year when I might pay more attention to fiction.

Is there not a good translation of Journey to the West at the moment?

There isn’t one that’s sufficiently accessible and engaging. This comes with a very good introduction, placing it in context, and also has a foreword by my favourite graphic novelist who writes about China, Gene Luen Yang, who wrote a graphic novel, Boxers and Saints, about the Boxer uprising.

I hadn’t heard of the author, but I definitely want to read the book!

It’s very cool. I think it’s better known in the United States because of the splash he made with a book called American Born Chinese. He wrote about his ethnicity and he did this dual book on the Boxers because he said he grew up a Christian but Chinese ethnically, so he didn’t know who to root for. He pairs a story of a boy who becomes a Boxer and a Chinese girl who becomes a Catholic.

There’s one other novel I’ve just started, Peach Blossom Paradise, a brand new historical novel with fanciful elements by Ge Fei that is set close to 1900 as well. It looks very good, but I’m not far enough along to be able to recommend it yet. I’ll be able to tell you more about that next time we speak.

Part of our best books of 2020 series.

Interview by Sophie Roell

Five Books aims to keep its book recommendations and interviews up to date. If you are the interviewee and would like to update your choice of books (or even just what you say about them) please email us at editor@fivebooks.com

Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. He specializes in modern Chinese history, with a strong interest in how China's past relates to the present as well as events elsewhere in the world. He is focused on popular protests in particular. He has written a number of books about modern Chinese history, both for academic and for general audiences. You can find him on Twitter at @jwassers.

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Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Jeffrey Wasserstrom is Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. He specializes in modern Chinese history, with a strong interest in how China's past relates to the present as well as events elsewhere in the world. He is focused on popular protests in particular. He has written a number of books about modern Chinese history, both for academic and for general audiences. You can find him on Twitter at @jwassers.