Here are some great summer reads, some new and some worth a second look, recommended by the Jing Daily team to tide over anyone with an interest in China and some time to kill at the beach or at the airport.
The fifth edition of Warren I. Cohen's seminal examination of the history -- and potential future -- of Sino-US relations from the formative years of the newly created United States to the present day, America's Response To China ($24.75, paperback) pulls of the difficult task of putting the complexities of Sino-US relations into an enjoyable, highly readable format. Looking beyond the emotionally charged hot-button issues upon which news stories often fixate, and investigating the roots of Sino-American conflict and cooperation with an open mind and clear understanding of history, America's Response To China is critical reading for anyone interested not only in how the United States and China became so intertwined, but what the eventual outcome of tis could be in the era of Chinese ascendancy.
If you prefer your beach reading with some historical heft, consider slipping a paperback of Lisa See’s best-seller Shanghai Girls (Random House, $15) into your vacation luggage. Following two pampered, haute-bourgeois sisters in 1930s Shanghai and their hard-luck marriages to a pair of “Gold Mountain” brothers in Los Angeles, See’s novel is too “seriously ambitious” to really qualify as chick lit, says New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin—even though, she points out, the women happen to be “clotheshorses” who also work as models. The third volume in See’s ongoing examination of Chinese and Chinese-American women through the generations—after Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love—Shanghai Girls so absorbed its author that she’s now writing a sequel.
There's certainly no dearth of material focused on the possibility that the growing economic strength, huge populations, and rising global ambitions of China and India could some day lead to escalating tensions or a replay of the destructive 1962 border war fought between the two Asian powers. However, rarely do these books eschew sensationalism and put forth such compelling points to the degree of Jonathan Holslag's excellent China and India: Prospects for Peace ($37.50, hardback). Taking a rare sober view of the oft-cited -- to the point of overkill -- potential for the emergence of a "Chindia," Holslag posits that increased competition, sometimes bitter, rather than mutually beneficial cooperation will be the likely result of the global rise of these two very different countries global rise. In dispelling myths while downplaying worn cliches, Holslag provides a much-needed dose of reality into the conversation on Sino-Indian relations.
Worth mentioning—and perhaps reclassifying in your mental library—is Chen Jiang Hong’s Mao and Me (Enchanted Lion Books, $19.95). First published in 2008, it’s a sophisticated graphic novel masquerading as a children’s book. The beautifully detailed, somber ink and watercolor paintings vibrantly capture 1960s China from a child’s perspective, and the generous page size allows Chen free rein in laying out and sequencing his images: half a dozen small paintings of ration tickets and scarce foodstuffs along the top of one page, for example, or a dizzying panorama of crowds at a rally sprawling across two others. The prose is lean and elegant, but the story it recounts is hardly bedtime material. With this intensely personal family history, Chen moves into Art Spiegelman territory, marking Mao and Me as a Cultural Revolution counterpart to Maus, slighter and more understated but with a similar emotional punch.