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Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform

Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

By Cheng Li
Posted January 1, 2001
Tags Faculty Books
Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform by Cheng Li, professor of government, is engrossing and an 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. 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.


Excerpt from Foreward by A. Doak Barnett
Overall, the book presents a very personal yet objective and coherent picture of the profound economic, social, and political-yes, political, too- metamorphosis of China that is now in progress. The author skillfully weaves into his narrative memorable profiles of unforgettable individuals, interviews that are extremely revealing about people's attitudes and values, and startlingly vivid word pictures of places that have totally changed in a single generation. The book also contains essential statistics that support his generalizations without overburdening his discussion. Each chapter has a central focus on particular trends, issues, or problems, and can be read on its merits, but I believe most readers will choose to read the entire book from start to finish, following Cheng Li's personal odyssey, and sharing the learning experiences that expanded his understanding and led to his basic judgements and conclusions.


"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
Queens College American Political Science Review

"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 and Society

"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."
China Journal

"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
City University of New York, Queens College


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