For Your China Reading List: 'Wealth and Power'

What does China want? What is all this growth for? An approximation of the answer.

You could have a long debate on whether we're in anything like a Golden Age for China itself. But beyond debate it is a golden age of writing about China, and therefore of things to read. There are overviews; universe-in-the-particular microcosmic accounts; memoirs; novels; long-suppressed histories; Chinese literature in translation; foreign-language accounts, more in English than in any other language.

You hardly need make an actual visit to the country! Although of course you should. Here's the latest entry in the golden-age chronicles: Wealth and Power: China's Long March to the Twenty-First Century, by Orville Schell and John Delury. 

I'm biased, in that one of the authors, Orville Schell, is a long-time colleague and close friend. But until this evening -- when the two of them, with another friend, Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, did an event at Politics & Prose in Washington -- I had not met his co-author, John Delury. And even if I'd never heard of anyone involved with the book, I'd suggest you read it if you're at all interested in China. It's both historical and current, and it does a better job than most other books of answering a basic question the rest of the world naturally asks about China's recent rise: What does China want? (Granting the preposterousness of this question, as applied to a diverse group of a billion-plus people.) What is all the building and bustle and sacrifice and preening for

You may not be certain of the answer to that question by the time you finish the book, but you'll be in very good position to discuss it. Also, you can hear the authors tomorrow morning (as I write), 11am EDT July 18, talking about the book on the Diane Rehm show

Update: My friend Christina Larson has a nice examination on the trend of translated books back and forth between China and the Western world.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it. They are repulsed by it."


The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."


What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in China

From This Author

Just In