The Best China Books of 2021, recommended by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

Whether you want to read the entire history of China in 250 pages or find out what’s going on right now in Xinjiang, enjoy a new translation of a 16th-century fantasy novel or delve into contemporary short stories, 2021 has been another good year for books about China. Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor’s Professor of History at UC Irvine, recommends his favourite China books of 2021.

The best books on Understanding China, recommended by Xinran

What books should we read to understand China—its culture, its history? British-Chinese journalist, author and activist Xinran picks five to get started with, including the book believed by many to be the greatest Chinese novel ever written. (You can also read this interview in Chinese by clicking here.)

The best books on Hong Kong, recommended by Jason Ng

In 2014 Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella Protests’ made news around the world. But will continuing protests in Hong Kong lead to advances in democracy or crackdowns by Beijing? Jason Ng, lawyer and author of Umbrellas in Bloom, chooses five of the best books for understanding China’s ‘foster child’ city.

The best books on Maoism, recommended by Julia Lovell

While researching Maoism, China expert Julia Lovell battled against two incorrect assumptions: “firstly that Maoism is a story of China; and secondly that Maoism is a story of the past.” Here she recommends five books for coming to grips with the global, still-relevant impact of Maoism.

Best China Books of 2020, recommended by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

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.

The Best Books on the Hong Kong Protests, recommended by Ben Bland

Around the world people have followed the standoff in Hong Kong with apprehension, as local protestors have taken on the might of China’s powerful Communist Party. Here Ben Bland, author of Generation HK and Director at Australian think tank the Lowy Institute, talks us through books to better understand what’s been going on these past few years and what’s at stake for Hong Kong’s citizens and activists.

Shanghai Novels, recommended by Paul French

Though it was the fifth biggest city in the world in the years following the Second World War, there aren’t nearly as many novels set in Shanghai as there are in Paris, Berlin and other international cities. Author and expert on modern Chinese history Paul French takes a look at the literary history of an often underwritten city from the 1930s through to the new millennium.

The best books on The Silk Road, recommended by Valerie Hansen

From the Han dynasty to the time of Marco Polo, the routes connecting Asia, Africa and Europe—now known as the Silk Road—were responsible for enormous amounts of global trade. Yale historian Valerie Hansen, author of The Silk Road: A New History, introduces us to its rich history: “one of the reasons the Silk Road is a misnomer is that silk was not the main good moving along.”

The best books on China Korea Relations, recommended by Odd Arne Westad

China has had close political and cultural relations with Korea for centuries and the history of that relationship can shed light on China’s approach to international relations more broadly—including in its imperial past. Yale historian Odd Arne Westad recommends the best books on China, Korea and the relationship between them.

The best books on China, recommended by Evan Osnos

Travelling to China? What are the best books to read to get a more in-depth understanding of this complex country? Longtime Beijing resident and New Yorker writer Evan Osnos picks some of his favourites.

The best books on Religion in China, recommended by Ian Johnson

China is a religious country with all kinds of faiths being practised across its vast territories—despite Mao’s attempts to eradicate them. The Chinese Communist Party tolerates a variety of religions but continues to grapple with the potential challenge they pose to its authority. Prize-winning journalist Ian Johnson introduces the best books on the complex topic of religion in China.

The best books on Emerging Markets, recommended by George Magnus

What determines whether a country goes backwards or forwards? Why have so few developing countries joined the ranks of rich nations? George Magnus, former chief economist of UBS, chooses books to help us reflect on what it is that societies need in order to be successful.

The best books on June 4th, 1989, recommended by Jeffrey Wasserstrom

In contrast to Eastern Europe, the 1989 protests in China did not lead to the overthrow of the Communist Party. But if China’s leaders chose the right course on June 4th, 1989, why are they still frightened to come to terms with it? Sinologist and historian Jeffrey Wasserstrom picks the best books to understand events at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and around China on that hot summer night.

The best books on Modern China, recommended by Rana Mitter

In October 1911, China’s last imperial dynasty fell. The legacy of that revolution remains deeply ambiguous in today’s People’s Republic. China scholar Rana Mitter tells us about the country’s tumultuous changes from 1911 to the present day.

The best books on Uyghur Nationalism, recommended by Michael Dillon

It’s hard to understand what’s going on in the Xinjiang region of China and the nationalism of the Uyghurs who live there without reading some history. Here Professor Michael Dillon, a historian at King’s College London, suggests books to read on the Uyghurs, focusing in particular on scholars and diplomats whose work gives insight into the period before the Chinese Communist takeover in 1949.