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A history of China during the first half of the twentieth century.
What the new Hong Kong is like.
No leader of modern times was more unique and more uniquely national than Charles de Gaulle. As founder and first President of the Fifth Republic, General de Gaulle saw himself 'carrying France on my shoulders'. When he first emerged on to the world stage in 1940, his insistence that he spoke for his nation might well have appeared impossibly arrogant for a recently promoted junior general who had never been elected to anything. But he personified many of the traits of his country which fascinate the rest of the world - its pride in itself, its intransigence, its historical and cultural heritage and its quasi-religious belief in the state. Le Genéral, as he became known from 1940 on, appeared as if carved from a single monumental block, but was, in fact, extremely complex, a man with deep personal feelings and recurrent mood swings, devoted to his family and often seeking reassurance from those around him. Though insisting on discipline and loyalty from others, he was a great rebel. A grand visionary with a vast geo-political grasp and elephantine memory, he was also a supreme tactician with a taste for secrecy and the ability to out-flank opponents. This is a magisterial, sweeping biography of one of the great leaders of the twentieth century and of the country with which he so identified himself. Written with terrific verve and narrative skill, and yet rigorous and detailed, it brings alive as never before the private man as well as the public leader through exhaustive research and astute analysis.
No country on earth has suffered a more bitter history in modern times than China. In the second half of the nineteenth century, it was viewed as doomed to extinction. Its imperial rulers, heading an anachronistic regime, were brought low by enormous revolts, shifting social power patterns, republican revolutionaries, Western incursions to "split the Chinese melon" and a disastrous defeat by Japan. The presence of predatory foreigners has often been blamed for China's troubles, but the much greater cause came from within China itself. In the early twentieth century, the empire was succeeded by warlordism on a massive scale, internal divisions, incompetent rule, savage fighting between the government and the Communists, and a fourteen-year invasion from Japan. Four years of civil war after 1945 led to the Maoist era, with its purges and repression; the disastrous Great Leap Forward; a famine that killed tens of millions; and the Cultural Revolution. Yet from this long trauma, China has emerged amazingly in the last three decades as an economic powerhouse set to play a major global political role, its future posing one of the great questions for the twenty-first century as it grapples with enormous internal challenges. Understanding how that transformation came about and what China constitutes today means understanding its epic journey since 1850 and recognizing how the past influences the present. Jonathan Fenby tells this turbulent story with brilliance and insight, spanning a unique historical panorama, with an extraordinary cast of characters and a succession of huge events. As Confucius said, To see the future, one must grasp the past.
'It is dangerous to identify any country as unique, but China has an excellent claim to that status . . . ' With the world's second-largest (and fastest-expanding) economy, a population of more than 1. 3 billion, a place at the core of the G20, $2. 4 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, trade surplus, nuclear weapons and modernizing military forces, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and an ability to dispense cash without conditions to poor countries in return for the raw materials it gobbles up, China is an increasingly significant global force moving forward with shocking velocity. But the last major nation under Communist rule also has a history of catastrophe and tragedy, tyranny and repression, abject poverty, unfair business practice and inherent corruption under a nebulous system of leadership with a questionable track record for human rights. It may be unlikely that China will collapse like the great exercise in smoke and mirrors depicted by some, but its internal complexity and contradictions may also prevent it from ruling the world. Either way, the binary approach so often applied to China - wherein it is either good or bad, set to reach the stars or implode in chaos - neglects to address the component parts of this vast and intricate nation. In this compelling and lucid account based on years of research and first-hand experience, rooted in on-the-ground reporting, interviews, observations, analysis of data and a viewpoint that sees the country from the inside out, Jonathan Fenby links together the myriad features of today's China. By seeing the nation as a whole and bringing together every part of its story, he delivers a unique and coherent picture of its essence and evolution and contemplates its future - both alone and connected to the world around it. £20
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