Books

Top 5 books on understanding the real China, chosen by Wish Lanterns author Alec Ash

Books to enlighten Western minds on China, its culture, history and politics

Tiananmen Square. Image: DEZALB from Pixabay

Though China has emerged as a global superpower there is still much that the West misunderstands about its history, politics and culture.

Party of One by Chun Han Wong

China has long been a one-party state, but not since the end of the Cultural Revolution has it been a one-man party. In this skilful work, the Wall Street Journal’s Chun Han Wong delineates just how the nation got here.

Sparks by Ian Johnson

“History has become a battleground for the present,” declares Johnson at the outset of his book. In few places is that more true than China, where an official version of history abuts against record and memory that is swiftly disappearing.

Red Memory by Tania Branigan

The Guardian journalist explores how memories of the Cultural Revolution in China have been formed, distorted and suppressed, and how this traumatic past resonates in present politics, including Xi Jinping’s Mao-like cult of personality that risks repeating it.

Beijing Rules by Bethany Allen

China is using its coffers to seek influence abroad. Axios journalist Bethany Allen lays out how China’s rulers apply what she dubs “economic statecraft”, strategically wielding economic power to assert dominance.

Invitation to a Banquet: The Story of Chinese Food by Fuchsia Dunlop

Dunlop has been carrying the torch for Chinese cuisine since her 2001 recipe book. Now she looks back at the millenia-old history of gastronomy in China in this entertaining work.

The Mountains Are High: A Year of Escape and Discovery in Rural China by Alec Ash is out now (Scribe, £16.99). You can buy these titles from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.
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