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Wealth and Power: Intellectuals in China

This week, Kaiser and Jeremy are joined by David Moser and Orville Schell. While long-time listeners will of course know of David Moser as one of our favorite resident sinologists, if you haven’t also heard of Orville Schell we think you should have.

(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Mao Zedong addresses a meeting calling for even greater efforts against the Japanese, at the Kangdah Cave University, 1938.

Currently Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society, and previously an academic sinologist with an outstanding list of publications on Chinese politics and society, Orville has most recently authored Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-first Century.

Up for discussion: recent developments at ChinaFile (what the site has been doing and where we expect it to go), the state of modern academic and intellectual discourse in China as part of a broader look at Orville’s new book, and finally a closer look at the terror attacks in Kunming last week which have seized the global presses.

Books

07.02.13

Wealth and Power

Orville Schell and John Delury
Through a series of lively and absorbing portraits of iconic modern Chinese leaders and thinkers, two of today’s foremost specialists on China provide a panoramic narrative of this country’s rise to preeminence that is at once analytical and personal. How did a nation, after a long and painful period of dynastic decline, intellectual upheaval, foreign occupation, civil war, and revolution, manage to burst forth onto the world stage with such an impressive run of hyperdevelopment and wealth creation—culminating in the extraordinary dynamism of China today?Wealth and Power answers this question by examining the lives of eleven influential officials, writers, activists, and leaders whose contributions helped create modern China. This fascinating survey begins in the lead-up to the first Opium War with Wei Yuan, the nineteenth-century scholar and reformer who was one of the first to urge China to borrow ideas from the West. It concludes in our time with human-rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, an outspoken opponent of single-party rule. Along the way, we meet such titans of Chinese history as the Empress Dowager Cixi, public intellectuals Feng Guifen, Liang Qichao, and Chen Duxiu, Nationalist stalwarts Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, and Communist Party leaders Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Zhu Rongji.{node, 3592}The common goal that unites all of these disparate figures is their determined pursuit of fuqiang, “wealth and power.” This abiding quest for a restoration of national greatness in the face of a “century of humiliation” at the hands of the Great Powers came to define the modern Chinese character. It’s what drove both Mao and Deng to embark on root-and-branch transformations of Chinese society, first by means of Marxism-Leninism, then by authoritarian capitalism. And this determined quest remains the key to understanding many of China’s actions today.By unwrapping the intellectual antecedents of today’s resurgent China, Orville Schell and John Delury supply much-needed insight into the country’s tortured progression from nineteenth-century decline to twenty-first-century boom. By looking backward into the past to understand forces at work for hundreds of years, they help us understand China today and the future that this singular country is helping shape for all of us. —Random House