PositiveThe New RepublicActivists like Pham Hong Thai, working to wrest their homelands from foreign control, are the subject of Harper’s magisterial book, which traces revolutionary struggles across Asia in the years between 1905 and 1931. The locales that interest him are cosmopolitan ports that were at least partly incorporated into Western empires—cities such as Canton, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Saigon, which were magnets for militants on the move ... Harper does not simply challenge the conventional view of Vietnam’s history but also other Great Man accounts of liberation struggles in different Asian countries, from Indonesia to India, the Philippines to China. He does this through life stories of intriguing individuals, downplayed or completely ignored in standard histories because their approaches diverged sharply from those of the figures now seen as the key saviors of their countries, or because they moved between and influenced activists in different locales, meaning their actions do not fit in a single national frame ... Today’s activists, some in exile, who are taking part in struggles to upend the \'established order\' in some parts of Asia, including those committed to using nonviolent methods, might feel a shock of recognition reading Harper’s book. Seeing terms like \'lost country\' and reading accounts of \'village abroad\' activists linked not by shared ideologies but by common concerns and a sense of fighting against long odds.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Thant’s most impressive title to date. It features anecdotes from the author’s own extraordinary life and interviews with a wide range of his compatriots...Together these vignettes tell the story of a country still struggling to escape the legacy of dictatorship ... It’s when the account reaches the 1990s that the book soars, moving briskly to the present, illuminating both the surge of international optimism for Burma almost a decade ago and the current moment of renewed world-wide dismay toward the country.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...bracingly forthright ... [Kan\'s] is, in short, a true-life Horatio Alger tale, albeit one with distinctively Chinese, 21st-century and feminist elements ... Her account has much of value to offer us as we seek to understand how China has been changing and look for help in explaining these shifts to others. Under Red Skies follows on the heels of several recent English-language books about Kan’s generation, but, unlike those, it has actually been written by a member of the complicated cohort in question. This gives a fresh feel to its handling of by-now familiar topics, like the tension produced when a jingoistic education is confronted with a longing to participate in global popular culture. She isn’t the first to describe the attitude of many Chinese of her age, who feel resentment toward certain countries for bullying China in the past even as they adore those countries’ cultural exports, from episodes of The Big Bang Theory to the latest Japanese manga. But she handles this discussion particularly well. While admiring Kan’s book, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that she sometimes jumbles her facts about periods before her teenage years ... Despite its occasional missteps, there is much to admire in Under Red Skies. It’s enjoyable to get to know Kan on the page; she tells moving family tales as well as poignant personal stories, and serves as an engagingly candid guide to the fascinating generation she is a part of.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe author, who writes with an infectious energy, lets us eavesdrop on the conversations he’s had with scores of young Chinese, often referring to them by the Western names they were given by teachers or chose for themselves. In venues ranging from cacophonous Karaoke bars to opulent office parks, these Toms, Zizis, Renées, and Lin Lins share their life stories and offer opinions about everything from skyrocketing real-estate prices to parent-child relations … There is a refreshingly ordinary, as opposed to sensationalistic, feel to many of the stories recounted in Young China: The author is such a lively spinner of tales that he can tease humor and pathos out of even run-of-the-mill interaction … We do not, despite the subtitle, get much of a sense of how the ‘restless generation’ will or even might ‘change their country and the world.’
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMeticulously researched, the book showcases materials from archives scattered across the globe to illustrate how one product’s flow across borders was knitting the world together long before the term ‘globalization’ was coined … As much as there is to please in Ms. Rappaport’s work, the book’s main downside is that it tries to please too much, appealing to both specialists and general readers … On the whole, though, Ms. Rappaport’s book is one of relevance to us all. Her section on the Opium War highlights the complex ways that a country’s dependence on a commodity, as well as individual addictions to that commodity, can lead to trouble on an international stage. Today’s equivalents are, still, opium, or another dark addictive liquid: oil.
PositiveThe Financial TimesOne thing that John Pomfret does very effectively in The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom is help us appreciate just how long Chinese views of America have been shaped, as they are now, by a mix of feelings including admiration, attraction, disappointment and disdain ... though containing clear arguments, including the idea that there is a related love-hate dynamic in American views of China, is ultimately a biographically driven work. Its strength lies in the cumulative effect of seeing recurring patterns revealed via skilfully drawn character sketches ... it needed to be long to do justice to the author’s ambitions but does drag occasionally near the end, in spite of the continued liveliness of Pomfret’s prose.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe humor in The Boat Rocker largely stems from Feng’s gleeful mocking of the grandiose claims of Yan and various party hacks, not least through his quoting of purple passages from the manuscript ... The Boat Rocker is no polemic masquerading as a novel. Yes, Jin wants us to root for Feng, but the novel includes nuanced debates on loyalty and identity, not just anti-Communist tirades. And the characters are multidimensional. This is true, most crucially, for Jin’s boat-rocking narrator.