Skip to main content

Middle Kingdom reading

Three recently published books to improve your understanding of China and its people

Middle Kingdom reading

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to read more books, here are three about China published in 2017 to add to your reading list. They’ll help you better understand the Middle Kingdom from the perspectives of global politics, human rights, and Christianity.

Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream Is the New Threat to World Order (Regnery Publishing, 2017) by Steven W. Mosher

In Bully of Asia, author Steven Mosher looks at present-day China in the context of the nation’s history, examining how China has long viewed itself and the rest of the world. President Xi Jinping’s mindset falls in line with the historic Chinese philosophy of legalism, the belief that a country’s stability is achieved by “exalting the ruler and maximizing his power.” The obedient are promoted, the disobedient eliminated. While the international community hopes China will work with others and respect international rules, China aims instead to regain its title of unrivaled hegemon, a status it enjoyed before the “national humiliation” of the 1800s, when foreigners defeated and carved up portions of a weakened China. The book serves a helpful reminder that China has always played by its own rules, and with this in mind, Mosher suggests the United States bolster its knowledge of China, strengthen cooperation with Taiwan, and pressure China to rein in North Korea.

The People’s Republic of the Disappeared: Stories from Inside China’s System for Enforced Disappearances (Safeguard Defenders, 2017), ed. Michael Caster

One way the Chinese government is silencing dissenters is with the use of “Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location” (RSDL). The practice was originally written into Chinese law as a type of house arrest for suspects without a fixed residence, but is now used to hold dissidents outside the parameters of detention center regulations. Translation: legalized torture. Eleven human rights activists share their experiences of RSDL in this book, each recalling similar interrogation tactics and the detention’s lasting physical and psychological effects. The prisoners were deprived of sleep, beaten, denied medication, left without food and water, forced to sit on thin stools without moving for days, and coerced into making televised confessions while their families were monitored and threatened. The book is eye-opening and courageous, as these rights activists risk retaliation for speaking out.

Shanghai Faithful: Betrayal and Forgiveness in a Chinese Christian Family (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) by Jennifer Lin

Former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jennifer Lin explores the history of Christianity in China by telling the story of her own family, starting five generations back with Lin Yongbiao, the family’s first Christian convert, who heard the gospel from Western missionaries. Much of the book focuses on her grandfather Lin Pu-chi, a well-educated Anglican pastor who studied in the United States and later faced persecution during the Cultural Revolution. Not only was he a clergyman for a foreign religion, his brother-in-law was the famous pastor Watchman Nee, a “counterrevolutionary” who was imprisoned for 20 years until his death. All the while, the author’s father practiced medicine and raised a family in the United States, never knowing the extent of his family’s struggles. The book is engaging and well-researched, yet left me wanting to know more about their personal faith and how it helped them survive persecution and suffering.