The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China

Perry Anderson writes:

Books about China, popular and scholarly, continue to pour off the presses. In this ever expanding literature, there is a subdivision that could be entitled ‘Under Western Eyes’. The larger part of it consists of works that appear to be about China, or some figure or topic from China, but whose real frame of reference, determining the optic, is the United States. Typically written by functionaries of the state, co-opted or career, they have as their underlying question: ‘China – what’s in it for us?’ Rather than Sinology proper, they are Sino-Americana. Ezra Vogel’s biography of Deng Xiaoping is an instructive example. Detached for duties on the National Intelligence Council under Clinton (he assures the reader that the CIA has vetted his book for improper disclosures), Vogel is a fixture at Harvard, where the house magazine hails Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China as the ‘capstone to a brilliant academic career’.

(LRB 9 February 2012)