Highly recommended. Takes the interesting approach of covering China’s rise over the last 200 years by profiling a selection of leaders (intellectual and political) from each period. It’s missing a map of China, so you may want to read with Google Maps handy so you can get a sense of where things in the book are happening. Also seems slanted toward the position that China’s path to wealth and power has been a successful one, instead of a crooked road paved with the bodies of the dead (see Tombstone).
Three things I learned:
Sun Yat-Sen was not the “father of democracy” I thought he was. Rather, he was one more reformer vying for power in the period at the end of the Qing dynasty, and not a very successful one, either.
The feeling of humiliation for Chinese goes back to the nineteenth century. It’s not an invention of the communist party; the Chinese intellectuals of the time saw their treatment at the hands of the Western powers as humiliation, not simple defeat.
The Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 was done at the orders of Deng Xiaoping, the same leader that started China on the path to a more market-based economic system.