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Rediscovering China

Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform

Cheng Li - Foreword by Doak A. Barnett

This engrossing and evocative account of the profound changes overtaking China explores the major dilemmas it confronts at the turn of the millennium. Shanghai-born and Western-educated, Cheng Li provides the unique dual perspective of a local resident and a political scientist who returned to his homeland to observe from the grassroots China's remarkable social transformations. During his travels, Li interviewed people from all walks of life, including local officials, technocrats, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and migrant laborers. His first-hand account shows how broad changes in rural industrialization, urban privatization, and internal migration have deeply influenced people's lives and ways of thinking. The magnitude of these transformations is unprecedented in Chinese history. His account brings a sense of immediacy to the crucial issues that have bedeviled the country: official corruption, growing disparities between rich and poor, the halting reform of state-owned enterprises, transportation and infrastructure bottlenecks, and environmental degradation. In rediscovering his native country, full of energy, irony, paradox, and contradiction, Li challenges some mainstream perceptions of China and presents a fresh perspective on U.S.-Sino relations during this period of uncertainty. His clear-eyed and engaging account provides the reader with the sounds and smells, tastes and textures of this rapidly changing country. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 224Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-8476-8337-6 • Hardback • March 1997 • $124.00 • (£80.00)
Cheng Li is research director and senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Li is also William R. Kenan Professor of Government at Hamilton College and director of the National Committee on US-China Relations.
Chapter 1 Foreword
Part 2 Impressions
Chapter 3 Searching for an Old Home, Searching for a New China
Chapter 4 "The Color of Money": Shanghai Surprises
Chapter 5 Daxing: Shanghai Panorama
Part 6 Impetus
Chapter 7 Dynamism of Market Economy: Stock Market, Private Enterprises/ and Foreign Investment
Chapter 8 Sunan's Miracle: Rural Industrial Revolution Changes China's Landscape
Chapter 9 Who Created China's Economic Miracle? Meet Chen Jinhai, Peasant-Turned Industrialist
Part 10 Impact
Chapter 11 "200 Million Mouths Too Many": China's Surplus Rural Laborers
Chapter 12 "94ers: Eastward Ho!"
Chapter 13 China's Internal Migration
Chapter 14 "Rome Was Not Built in a Day, but Zhangjigang Was"
Chapter 15 A Model of Urbanization
Chapter 16 A Yangtze Three Gorges Adventure
Part 17 Incongruities
Chapter 18 "Shanghai: City for Sale"
Chapter 19 Construction Fever and Land Leasing
Chapter 20 On the Road to Subei: The Transportation Bottleneck in China's Development
Chapter 21 Unresolved Issues of State-Owned Enterprises: Visiting an SOE and Claiming an IOU
Part 22 Implications
Chapter 23 Is a Rich Man Happier than a Free Man?: Huaxi Village/ China's "Mini-Singapore"
Chapter 24 China's "Yuppie Corps": Meet Mr. Zhang, A Chinese Technocrat
Chapter 25 New Thinking of Chinese Intellectuals: Meet Dai Qing, a Women of Ideas and Action
Chapter 26 China's Future and Prospects for Sino-American Relations
This important book, based on Cheng's wide travels and research in China in 1993-95 as a fellow of the U.S.-based Institute of Current World Affairs, dispels several myths.
Foreign Affairs

By walking the reader through China from the vantage point of local residents who live daily through chaotic changes and pressing concerns, the book gives a human face to China's complex transformation. . . . The depth of Li's conversations with locals and the breadth of personal contacts on which those were based are extraordinarily impressive and are unlikely to be matched by non-Chinese speakers. . . . The book's immediacy and wealth of information make a unique and major contribution. Together, the variegated data help build a strong case against what Li calls 'serious misconceptions' in the West about contemporary China. . . . Li's arguments are compelling not only because of his intellectual sensitivity but also because of his intellectual integrity. Balance and objectivity are strong qualities of this work.
Yan Sun, associate professor of art history, Gettysburg College; American Political Science Review

Li explores the meaning of China's reforms to the people who are both suffering and enjoying them. Based in Shanghai during the mid-1990s, Li

Informative and exciting. . . . Students and scholars of China will benefit from reading this book, even if they do travel to China, because Li has seen things and talked to people that are not easily accessible to Westerners. Those who have not had a chance to visit recently should also read this book simply to catch up with the monumental changes now occurring.
Journal of Asian Studies

Cheng Li . . . provides intriguing insights into the minutiae of everday economic and social life through vignettes on the lifestyles, hopes and problems of individual entrepreneurs, migrant workers, factory managers, taxi drivers and others whom he meets on his travels. He builds a persuasive argument which needs to be taken seriously in weighing up the scenarios for China's future.
The China Journal

By the end of Rediscovering China, every reader will have learned something new . . . . His cast is rich, and so are the anecdotes [the author] tells.
Far Eastern Economic Review

Extraordinary. . . . A revealing and compelling profile. . . . The book is a delight to read. . . . Full of stimulating ideas and insights as well as useful facts. Anyone desiring to increase their understanding of the historic changes now taking place in the largest and most rapidly developing nation in the world—whether they already know a great deal or only very little about China—will be richly rewarded by reading it.
from the foreword by A. Do ak Barnett, author of China on the Eve of Communist Takeover

Some of the freshest, most accessible, and fascinating reportage available on China in the throes of reform. It is hard to think of another book that has the same immediacy and wealth of information.
Orville Schell, University of California, Berkeley

Li's arguments are compelling not only because of his intellectual sensitivity but also his intellectual integrity. Balance and objectivity are strong qualities of this work.
Yan Sun, associate professor of art history, Gettysburg College

Li has written a warts-and-all account of 1990s China which includes numerous examples of corruption and other such vices, all the more convincing because of his Chinese background. This is certain to have a profound impact on China, begetting all kinds of new economic and social problems. He should go back and write a sequel, once the dust has settled.
Colina MacDougall; Asian Affairs

Eye-opening. For those who see China only on television and remember only its high economic growth rates, the author's moving description and thoughtful analysis of China's 200 million surplus rural laborers, millions of mostly middle-aged, off-post urban workers, and the hard-to solve issues of state-owned enterprises will bring to light the huge costs and the negative aspects of reform. Finally, for those who have doubts about the extent of China's economic development, even a casual reading of this book will put those doubts to rest. As an overseas Chinese who cares a great deal about my native land, I am deeply moved.
Ming Tsui, Millsaps College; Asian Thought & Society

Cheng Li has written a thoughtful book that goes a long way toward correcting many misconceptions about China today.
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences