China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



January 25, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright January 25, 2009 Kate Merkel-Hess. Used by permission.


A few days ago, we ran the first installment in a feature that posed the question “What Should Obama Be Reading About China?” to prominent China watchers. While Evan Osnos at the New Yorker pondered Chinese responses to Obama’s inauguration, our contributors mulled over which five readings on China would give the new president the essential knowledge he will need to navigate one of the U.S.’s most critical relationships. Here are few more of the recommendations we’ve received this week…

Pankaj Mishra is the author of, most recently, Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond and a regular contributor to theNew York Review of Books.

Obama will be given plenty of briefing papers to prepare him for meetings with Chinese leaders. As a sensitive and unusually perceptive writer, who seems to possess a great deal of negative capability, he would, I suspect, enjoy reading more general and literary books about Chinese history and culture. Here is my list.

1. The Gate of Heavenly Peace, Jonathan Spence. An elegant account of the passionate and tormented men and women who made China’s modern history, more accessible—for the busy president at least—than Spence’s comprehensive but mammoth The Search for Modern China.