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‘Rising Star’ to ‘Red Roulette’ — Here is what you need to read on China

Domain expert Aadil Brar brings you a shortlist of books and papers you need to understand Chinese society and external relations.

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On popular demand, here’s a shortlist of books on China that can help you to understand the country. The list isn’t exhaustive, and there are plenty of other great books about China out there.

The list also includes some books on Tibet.

Chinese Politics

Governing China: From Revolution to Reform by Ken Lieberthal

The Third Revolution; Xi Jingping and the New Chinese State by Elizabeth C. Economy

China’s Future by David Shambaugh

Politics in China: An Introduction by William Joseph

Internationalizing China by David Zweig

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China by Ezra Vogel

Chinese Economy

The Chinese Economy by Barry Naughton

The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China? by Susan Shirk

Factions and Finance in China: Elite Conflict and Inflation by Victor Shih


Also Read: Our pick of top 10 books in 2021


History and Society

China’s Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism by Rana Mitter

The Cambridge History of China (volumes) by John Fairbank

Great State: China and the World by Timothy Brook

Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century by Orville Schelle and John Delury

The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947 by Tsering Shakya

Zhang, Y. and Buzan, B. (2012). The Tributary System as International Society in Theory and Practice. The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 5(1), pp.3–36.

Military and People’s Liberation Army

Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy Since 1949 by Taylor Fravel

Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes by Taylor Fravel

Junbo, Z. and Yunzhu, Y. (1996). Differences between traditional Chinese and Western military thinking and their philosophical roots. Journal of Contemporary China, 5(12), pp.209–221.

Scobell, A. (2012). Learning to Rise Peacefully? China and the security dilemma. Journal of Contemporary China, 21(76), pp.713–721.

Mastro, O.S. (2018). In the Shadow of the Thucydides Trap: International Relations Theory and the Prospects for Peace in U.S.-China Relations. Journal of Chinese Political Science, 24(1), pp.25–45.

International Relations and Foreign Policy

China Goes Global: The Partial Power by David Shambaugh

Yan, X. (2014). From Keeping a Low Profile to Striving for Achievement. The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 7(2), pp.153–184.

China’s Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy by Peter Martin

Rising star: China’s new security diplomacy by Bates Gill

Feng, H., He, K. and Xuetong, Y. (2020). CHINESE SCHOLARS AND FOREIGN POLICY: Debating International Relations. Oxford: Routledge.


Also read: The 10 best books we read this year


India and China

India Versus China: Why They are Not Friends by Kanti Bajpai

India’s China Challenge by Ananth Krishnan

The Fractured Himalaya: India Tibet China 1949-1962 by Nirupama Rao

India and Asian Geopolitics: The Past, Present by Shivshankar Menon

Powershift: India-China Relations in a Multipolar World by Zorawar Daulet Singh

Fateful Triangle: How China Shaped US‑India Relations by Tanvi Madan

US and China

On China by Henry Kissinger

The Long Game: China’s Grand Strategy to Displace American Order by Rush Doshi

Two Kinds of Time by Graham Peck

Mearsheimer, J. (2010). The Gathering Storm: China’s Challenge to U.S. Power in Asia. The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 3(4), pp.381–396.

Fardella, E. (2009). The Sino-American Normalization: A Reassessment. Diplomatic History, 33(4), pp.545–578.

Recent popular books on China

Red Roulette: An Insider’s Story of Wealth, Power, Corruption and Vengeance in Today’s China by Desmond Shum

Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen

Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China by Jung Chang

The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage by Mara Hvistendahl

Eat the Buddha: Life and Death in a Tibetan Town by Barbara Demick


Also Read: T20 to coronavirus to RSS — 6 books you need to read in self-quarantine


This book list was originally published on Aadil Brar’s newsletter Asia Communique.

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