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January 13, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright January 13, 2009. Used by permission.


The last year is gone, and 2009 predictions are rolling in. Here are a few of our favorite 2008 wrap-ups and 2009 predictions from the past few weeks. Looking back…

1. China Beat’s Jeffrey Wasserstrom has posted a few of his own reflections on 2009. At the Christian Science Monitor, Wasserstrom wrote about “the two big China stories you missed this year” (though regular China Beat readers likely won’t have…!). The subheading should tip you off to these two stories: “The brief yet radical shift of patriotic fervor into criticism of the government after the Sichuan earthquake and the official revival of Confucius were crucial moments in a pivotal year.”

And at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Wasserstrom discussed how 2008 had showcased a new “golden age” of English-language reportage on China:

The year saw a bumper crop of unusually illuminating books of reportage. The four works I have in mind take widely varying approaches to contemporary China. What they have in common is that each is by someone with good Chinese language skills, has a long-term commitment to understanding China on its own terms, and has hit upon an interesting way to frame a book. Each offers readers a valuable opportunity to move beyond simplistic visions of China that downplay the diversity of the country and the complex nature of the social and cultural shifts its people are experiencing.

Make the jump to find out the four works Wasserstrom singled out for notice.

2. Access Asia (if you aren’t already reading their weekly updates, you should be…) published a 2008 retrospectives on the best and worst of books on China in 2008 (republished at

It was hardly a stellar year – there were no really big picture books this year that stormed the shelves, though there were a few interesting memoirs (Rowan Simons’s Bamboo Goalposts and Zhang Lijia’s Socialism is Great! both deserve a mention) but not one good business book. 2008 was a good year for general history though as reflected in our choices below.