Synopses & Reviews
As the twenty-first century dawns, China stands at a crossroads. The largest and most populous country on earth and currently the worlds second biggest economy, China has recently reclaimed its historic place at the center of global affairs after decades of internal chaos and disastrous foreign relations. But even as China tentatively reengages with the outside world, the contradictions of its development risks pushing it back into an era of insularity and instability—a regression that, as Chinas recent history shows, would have serious implications for all other nations.
In Restless Empire, award-winning historian Odd Arne Westad traces Chinas complex foreign affairs over the past 250 years, identifying the forces that will determine the countrys path in the decades to come. Since the height of the Qing Empire in the eighteenth century, Chinas interactions—and confrontations—with foreign powers have caused its worldview to fluctuate wildly between extremes of dominance and subjugation, emulation and defiance. From the invasion of Burma in the 1760s to the Boxer Rebellion in the early 20th century to the 2001 standoff over a downed U.S. spy plane, many of these encounters have left Chinese with a lingering sense of humiliation and resentment, and inflamed their notions of justice, hierarchy, and Chinese centrality in world affairs. Recently, Chinas rising influence on the world stage has shown what the country stands to gain from international cooperation and openness. But as Westad shows, the nations success will ultimately hinge on its ability to engage with potential international partners while simultaneously safeguarding its own strength and stability.
An in-depth study by one of our most respected authorities on international relations and contemporary East Asian history, Restless Empire is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand the recent past and probable future of this dynamic and complex nation.
"Trauma, antagonism, and stimulating development are the fruit of China's deeply formative engagement with the world, according to this savvy history. Bancroft Prize winning historian Westad (The Global Cold War), of the London School of Economics, surveys China's foreign relations from the 18th-century Qing dynasty's war in Burma to present-day wrangles over U.S. spy planes, mineral rights in the South China Sea, and the latter-day economic boom that has made nominally Communist China the 'champion of free market capitalism.' Much of this period is one of military subjection to rapacious foreign powers, but Westad emphasizes the importance of those experiences in making China modern: Western imperialism, he argues, brought economic development and new ideas about democracy and nationalism; Communist China's emulation of the Soviet Union boosted the power and activism of the state; China's post cold war economic boom is predicated on international trade and investment, and business practices imported from abroad. Against the conventional image of an arrogantly aloof and immovable civilization, the author tells a story apart from the disastrous xenophobic detour of Maoism of China's progressive attunement and adaptation to foreign influences. Westad manages to compress a vast and complex history into a well-paced narrative that helps readers understand China's growing centrality in international affairs. 6 maps. Agent: Peter Robinson, Robinson Literary Agency. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Stephen R. Platt, author of Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom
“Odd Arne Westad’s Restless Empire is an authoritative and lucid history of China’s foreign relations from the peak of the Qing dynasty in the eighteenth century to the present day. Anyone seeking to understand the role China may play in our future world should start with this book.”
John Pomfret, Washington Post
[A] wonderful book.... Westad upends, but ever so politely, a slew of misconceptions about China that have been concocted by his academic predecessors both in the West and in Asia.... [He shows] that the foreigners story in China is not the monochromatic account of malevolent imperialism that has dominated the discourse in U.S. universities but a much richer and more important tale. The brilliance of Restless Empire is that while acknowledging the threat to China inherent in its contacts with the West and Japan, Westad also shows that they inspired and amazed the Chinese and played the critical role in the opening of the Chinese mind.”
Restless Empire is a fascinating book and a pleasure to read. As well as providing a historical framework for understanding the behavior of modern China, it is full of interesting details and insights.... Amid the anecdotes and the broad historical narrative, Westad also offers pointed reassessments of particular episodes in Chinese history.... Another interesting angle to Restless Empire is its emphasis on the ambiguous impact of Chinas collision with imperialism.... The restless reader may want to know what all this history tells us about the modern day. Westad places current developments in an interesting historical perspective.”
The Guardian, Best History Books of 2012
[A] fine example…of the way history can begin to make sense of [China] for an outsider.”
Ian Johnson, New York Review of Books
A Sinologist who has written widely and lucidly on the cold war, Westads Restless Empire is a rich history of the past 250 years of Chinese foreign policy.”
A revisionist attempt to break up tomes of statecraft and statesmen into histories of missionaries, businessmen, coolies, revolutionaries and scholars. Restless Empire is a personal, anecdotal and humanistic approach to history that uses the single common thread of China's turbulent past to tie 250 years of history togetherher people.... Westad is foremost a good storyteller, the most important qualification of a good historian.... Compelling stuff.”
Westad starts with an important piece of mythbusting, arguing strongly against the idea that China has been an inward-looking society closed to the rest of the world.... Westad is particularly acute on the Cold War period, using impressive documentation to argue that Chinas relationship to the rest of East Asia was not just communist, but Confucian in the ties that Mao nurtured with his ideological younger brothers such as Kim Il-sung and Ho Chi Minh
. [Westad] makes[s] poignantly clear the obstacles to China becoming a global leader.”
Westads clear account is extraordinarily useful, both for the context in which he puts it and for the use he makes of recent scholarship.... Im unaware of any other work of this chronological sweep that replaces the old Western impact on China treatises so well with the findings of modern scholarship.”
A lucid and engaging book.... This fine survey is the best guide to appear yet on the knotty entanglements of Chinas pasts and futures.”
[A] timely new book.... Westad takes us on a fast but sure-footed…gallop over the heavy ground of Chinas relations with the outside world since the beginning of the serious incursions by foreign powers, especially the British.... Westad has produced an entertaining, fulsome and useful addition to the deluge of literature on China.”
Charleston Post and Courier
Understanding Chinas cultural, commercial and diplomatic relationships to the U.S. and the rest of the world is an important task. Thats why this book is so useful. For China, perhaps more than any other country, understanding its past is key to understanding its present and future.... Westad constructs his narrative from sources that include other scholarship, personal anecdotes and primary research, but with an accessible style. Restless Empire is a great example of macro-history written for the general reader.”
[Restless Empire] is a richly detailed, elegant meditation on Chinas search to define its role in the world, and answer that elemental question: What is China?... Westad masterfully relates Chinas vertiginous 19th-century decline, restless 20th-century experimenting with modernity and its dizzying resurgence today
. A learned history.”
[A] nuanced interpretation of the history of Chinas foreign relations.... This is essential reading for students of modern Chinese history and for those interested in Chinas growing role in world affairs. Westads ability to lucidly explain a complex subject makes this an excellent introduction.”
Stephen R. Platt, author of Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom
Odd Arne Westads Restless Empire is an authoritative and lucid history of Chinas foreign relations from the peak of the Qing dynasty in the eighteenth century to the present day. Anyone seeking to understand the role China may play in our future world should start with this book.”
Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans and co-author of Mao: The Unknown Story
Written by one of the most distinguished scholars on China, this book brings clarity and insight into complex historical issues.”
Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China
Westads Restless Empire is thorough, fast-moving, and consistently clear. It gives an excellent introduction to the vagaries of Chinas foreign relations over the last 250 years.”
Frank Dikotter, author of Maos Great Famine
An essential guide to modern Chinas often violent encounter with the rest of the world.”
An astute, succinct study of modern China emphasizing overarching themes like hybrid identity and foreign influence rather than nationalism and centrality
. A fresh look at a confounding nation the West has not yet figured out.”
[A] savvy history
. Westad manages to compress a vast and complex history into a well-paced narrative that helps readers understand Chinas growing centrality in international affairs.”
Booklist, starred reviewA superb story of Chinas historically schizophrenic relationship with the outside world
. [A] compelling, expansive account. Westad has provided readers with both a remarkable and timely glimpse behind the curtain that is required reading for anyone interested in Chinese political history and economic development and the future of Chinas position in the international community."
Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global OrderUnderstanding China is the most important question facing the world. Arne Westad has written a really excellent book which represents a very important building block in this task the relationship between China and the world since 1750. Highly accessible, insightful, full of good sense and wise judgment, and, as one would expect, extremely well-informed, it deserves to be both influential and widely read.”
About the Author
Odd Arne Westad
is one of the worlds foremost experts on both the Cold War and contemporary East Asian history. A Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), he is also co-director of LSE INEAS, a center for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy, and author of the acclaimed The Global Cold War
, among many other books. He has held visiting fellowships at Cambridge University, Hong Kong University, and New York University, and has been the recipient of major grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the British Arts and Humanities Research Council. He has served as the international coordinator of the Russian Foreign Ministrys Advisory Group on Declassification and Archival Access and has been awarded the Bernath Lecture Prize from the Society of Historians of American Foreign Relations. Professor Westad lectures widely on Chinas foreign affairs, on Western interventions in Africa and Asia, and on foreign policy strategy.
Table of Contents
9. China Alone
10. Chinas America
11. Chinas Asia