What Should Obama be Reading about China?

Copyright The China Beat
Recommendations by Howard French:
Africa’s World War, by Gerard Prunier
Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, by Nicholas Shaxson
Why two books that are nominally about Africa for a conversation about China? Because unheralded though it is, Africa will be the great economic and political frontier of the next quarter century, and China, which has understood this far better than the United States and Europe, is building an immense lead in terms of its relations with the continent.
The first book paints a compelling picture of how badly wrong the U.S. has gotten Africa policy since the Clinton Administration, reaping death and destruction through reckless policies in Central Africa, and helping create the big openings China enjoys today.
The second book explains the pitfalls of the African oil sector, which has been America’s principal draw to the continent, and could help reinvent policies in ways that help African countries to use their very real wealth for development.
China: Fragile Superpower, by Susan L. Shirk
China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation, by David Shambaugh
Neither Obama nor any of his top advisors seem to have any deep history of involvement with China. Shirk and Shambaugh’s books are as good a primer on the way the country’s politics work as any I’ve seen recently, and would be a very solid starting point for understanding the country.
Struggling Giant, China in the 21st Century, by Kerry Brown
In the same vein of advice, this slim volume provides a very good feel for the upside potential of China as a fast-rising world power, but also of just how creaky the whole enterprise remains.
Beijing Coma, by Ma Jian
The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up, by Liao Yiwu
When the “other half” amounts to 650-800 million people, depending on who is doing the counting, it pays to have a sense for how they live. Ma Jian, the novelist, and Liao Yiwu, the New Journalist, will place you firmly in their midst, and give you some real and unforgettable people’s history along the way.
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