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October 18, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright October 18, 2008. Used by permission.


Last month, we announced our forthcoming book, China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance, to be published by Rowman & Littlefield in early 2009. With the manuscript beginning to take its final shape (and 2008 far enough advanced that we felt somewhat—but only somewhat, given what a crazy year it’s been so far—safe beginning to reflect on it), we thought we would share a little bit from the book with you. In the coming weeks, we hope to share with you a preview of the table of contents as well as perhaps snippets of other new pieces from the book.

For today, here is a short selection from the introduction to the book, “China in 2008: A Reflection on a Year of Great Significance,” by Kate Merkel-Hess:

The subtitle of this volume is a play on Ray Huang’s groundbreaking Ming history,1587: A Year of No Significance. In that book, Huang examined a year of no particular importance when the Emperor Wanli was in power. The irony of Huang’s title is that Wanli’s disastrous reign was the beginning of the end for the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which fell to internal rebellions and then the Manchu invasions that led to the establishment of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), China’s last. Fifteen eighty-seven matters a great deal because, while it was not a year of important events, it was apparent in its day-to-day affairs that the Ming was headed toward ruin.

This year, in contrast, was a year of important event after important event for China. In fact, the year was an enormously important year globally, both for stories that pointed the way toward a new world order (geopolitically and financially) and stories that seemed resurrected from news cycles past. In the early panicked days of the fall’s economic woes, coming amidst the U.S. presidential campaign as well as several other big domestic and international stories, David Folkenflik commented on National Public Radio (NPR) that “the breakneck pace of developments means a lot of news worth knowing receives the briefest burst of attention before being dropped for something hotter.” China’s tainted milk story was overshadowed by the U.S. presidential election and the escalating credit crisis. Russia’s invasion of Georgia coincided with the highly-anticipated Olympic Opening Ceremony. The riots in Tibet and the contentious U.S. Democratic primaries pushed rising international food prices off the front pages.