Where is China heading in the twenty-first century? Recent curtailments of liberty, such as the new "cyberwall" prohibiting internet users from reaching pro-democracy websites, has dimmed the hopes of many that China might be entering a new era of freedom on the heels of rapid economic expansion and success. Will China's Communist Party be able to balance an economy which demands liberal reform with their own hard-line approach to government control? Or will their new economy be their undoing, as its demands on natural resources bring China to the brink of environmental disaster? In this highly readable account, John Gittings sheds light on modern Chinese history as he answers these vital questions.
Gittings, the Guardian's China specialist and East Asia editor for twenty years, offers a fascinating glimpse into Chinese history in the last half century. His narrative ranges from the early Peach-Blossom socialism, to the Great Leap Forward, the two Cultural Revolutions, the Hundred Flowers, the Gang of Four, and the Tiananmen Square massacre. Bringing his account to the present, Gittings concludes that environmental degradation and rising pollution represent the most serious threats to the Chinese people today. He points out that the nightmare scenario for China is not a collapse of the Party or of the banks, or another uprising by the rural masses. It is that China will run out of water.
Based on three decades reporting on China, Gittings charts a complex but epic history of one of the world's superpowers. His work will offer insights for readers with an interest in modern China, and students of modern Chinese history and politics.
Gittings, a veteran Western journalist long based in Hong Kong and then Shanghai, has written a vivid history of Communist China. Drawing on his firsthand experience, he recaptures the simultaneous absurdity and utopian idealism of the Mao era and depicts the conflicting sentiments of China-watchers as they observed the power struggles of that time. Troubled by his belief that the Western press was not entirely fair in its coverage of China, he at many points gives China the benefit of the doubt where others have not. Moving forward to the post-Mao era, he offers a history of China's economic rise that is more than just a chronicle of production statistics. (He includes, for example, the production of China's writers and poets.) Looking to the future, Gittings anticipates the gradual expansion of politics but not the disintegration of the party. He identifies economic problems, but none that will fundamentally threaten China's progress. He is most pessimistic about environmental degradation and the escalating demands of a growing population on an inadequate natural-resource base especially the limited water supply. Yan'an, Mao's wartime capital, recently had to make do with only one and a half hours of running water every three days.