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Kirkus Book Review
In his preface to this last of three volumes covering Chinese history since the Opium Wars, Chesneaux notes the specific problems that confront the historian of post-Liberation China; besides the controlled flow of official information, there is the peculiar character of Chinese historical thinking itself, which sees the past in terms of present political conceptions. This quality of reading history ""backward"" leads, in the Chinese case, to the progressive revelation of past crises and previously concealed divisions, as has occurred during the Lin Piao affair, and, earlier, during the ""two road"" oppositions uncovered by the Cultural Revolution. Consequently, Chesneaux's last volume differs from its predecessors in the apparent primacy it affords ideological and theoretical issues, and in its relative lack of empirical material. Like them, it is divided into short sub-chapters covering everything from agricultural yield to Confucius, and each chapter is supplemented by primary documents and/or first-person accounts. Like the Chinese themselves, Chesneaux emphasizes the struggles between ""two roads""--Soviet-style industrial vs. agrarian egalitarian paths to development--and charts the course China has traveled between them, but he situates that struggle within the context of the unevenly developed economic and cultural legacy of imperialism (as between city and countryside) and the continued uneven development that has followed, engendering class stratifications that underlie the persistent recurrence of the ""two roads."" So even when Chesneaux places ideology at the center of his history, he never loses sight of social forces and structures of economic and political power. Although written too early for substantial evaluation of the Hua period, this is a fine conclusion to what is now the best available general introduction to modern Chinese history. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.