China today is never out of the news: from human rights controversies and the continued legacy of Tiananmen Square, to global coverage of the Beijing Olympics, and the Chinese "economic miracle." It is a country of contradictions and transitions: a peasant society with some of the world's most futuristic cities, an ancient civilization that is modernizing as rapidly as possible, a walled-off nation that is increasingly at the center of world trade. This Very Short Introduction offers an indispensable starting point for anyone who needs to quickly know the themes and controversies that have shaped modern China. Prize-winning author and scholar Rana Mitter examines the modern history, politics, economy, and thriving cultural scene of contemporary China, and its relations with the wider world. This lively guide covers a range of social issues from the decline of footbinding and the position of women in society, to the influence of television and film, and the role of the overseas Chinese diaspora. It covers many prominent figures as well, such as the Communist leaders, the last emperors, and prominent writers and artists throughout China's history.
Rana Mitter is University Lecturer in the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of St Cross College. He is the author of The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance and Collaboration in Modern China, and A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World (OUP, 2004), for which he won the title Times Higher Education Young Academic Author of the Year 2005. The book was also runner-up for the Longman/History Today Book of the Year prize, a finalist for the British Academy Book Prize, and named by Foreign Affairs as one of five "must-read" Notable Books on China. He presents and comments regularly on radio and television, and his reviews and essays have appeared in the Financial Times, History Today, and London Review of Books.