Sat. Dec 7th, 2019

Five books to understand contemporary China | Babelia


In chess of world geopolitics, China is one of the fundamental pieces of the game. The spectacular economic growth of recent decades has led the country to a position in which it competes with the United States for being the first power on the planet. This development has allowed millions of people out of poverty, while living attached to a market economy with a communist facade. However, success in the economic sphere is overlapped by the management of the daily life of its inhabitants. The Government, backed by a powerful Communist Party, uses surveillance macrosystems and imposes severe controls on people. Also, as they revealed China's secret cables published by THE COUNTRY, there is a system of repression and harassment of the Uighur Muslim ethnic group. To achieve an approach to the eastern power, we selected five books that allow us to understand the complexity of a country full of shadows.

Five books to understand contemporary China



1. Leadership and the Rise of Great Powers (Leadership and the rise of great powers) – Yan Xuetong (2019). This academic text deals with explaining that the world is entering a bipolar stage in which China and U.S They compete for hegemonic control. While the US power slowly recedes, the eastern one is advancing by leaps and bounds. According to the author, this situation of lack of clear leadership will increase conflicts and violence. At the same time, the text says, Europe will lose its position and the center of world power will move to East Asia. The essay states that there is little chance of a military confrontation between China and the United States, because Beijing aims to rise to the top of the international podium through the strength of its economy.

Five books to understand contemporary China



two. Lenin's kisses – Yan Lianke (2015). The book tells the story of a secluded mountain town who lived prosperously until a revolutionary convinced its inhabitants to embrace socialism. However, the project does not go as expected and asks the villagers to return to their previous lifestyle, but a snow storm damages the fields and the village falls into an economic crisis. An official arrives at the place, willing to help the inhabitants, and devises a project to take advantage of the particular skills of the villagers. The idea, in the end, is to obtain sufficient benefits to buy Lenin's mummy from Russia and turn the town into a tourist destination to free its inhabitants from having to work in the future. The narrative highlights the irony of Chinese society and the schizophrenia of wild capitalism hidden behind Chinese socialism propagated by the Communist Party.

Five books to understand contemporary China



3. Les nouveaux communistes chinois (The new Chinese communists) – Mathieu Duchâtel and Joris Zylberman (2012). This work includes about fifty interviews not published before to listen to the core of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the institution on which the regime of that country is based. With 80 million members, the CCP is the largest organization in the world, but also one of the most murky. In this book, the authors try to investigate how the organization works, how much its militants believe in the Marxist-Leninist struggle today, who their new members are and why they join the party.

Five books to understand contemporary China



Four. In search of my Chinese sister – Georgina Higueras (2018). It is a historical novel that tells the arrival of a young Spanish woman in China to study at the University of Beijing. There he establishes a great friendship with his roommate, who is Chinese, and whose family has lived several of the most important events in the country during the twentieth century. Thirty years later, and after moving to Mexico, the protagonist returns to find her great friend in the middle of a population of more than one billion people. The young Chinese family is the main thread of history, which recreates the main events in the country during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and the environment in a country that goes from poverty and isolation to becoming a superpower that radically changes people's lives.

Five books to understand contemporary China



5. China Modern – Xulio Ríos (2016). In less than 200 pages, the author tries to explain in a simple way the structure and complex functioning of the Chinese regime today. It tells of the country's desire to play an internationally relevant role and describes the project of the ubiquitous Communist Party, which is more historical and cultural than ideological, despite the fact that the regime, with features very close to capitalism, has refused to abandon Socialist ideas The book is, then, a guide to understand the transformation and rapid growth of a country that struggles to become the world's first power.

Five books to understand contemporary China



And an extra book. The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices (The good women of China: hidden voices) – Xuē Xīnrán (2003). It is a work of very human characteristics. It collects the stories of several Chinese women who called the radio program that the author directed for seven years to talk about her daily life. The radio space, which was broadcast between 10 and 12 at night, soon gained fame throughout the country, and became a sample of what it means to be a woman in China. The stories give voice to the common people, beyond what tries to reflect the overwhelming structure of the Communist Party, and offers a very close idea of ​​what it is like to live, in a gloomy country, on a daily basis.

The selection of these books has been made after consulting experts on the social, political and economic situation of China. They are the journalist Ana Fuentes, former correspondent of EL PAÍS in Beijing; the essayist Xulio Ríos, director of the Observatory of Chinese Policy; and journalist and writer Georgina Higueras, former correspondent for various media in Asia.

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