The China Story Yearbook 2012

The China Story Yearbook 2012: Red Rising, Red Eclipse
Edited by Geremie R. Barmé
Australian Centre on China in the World

When I first moved to Beijing in the mid-1990s, the quantity of daily and weekly media coverage of China was so modest that I actually kept physical clipping files everything I could find. A few hours a week was often enough to manage the process. Today, such an endeavor would require a modest-sized full-time staff. As such, one of the great challenges in following China is crafting a viewpoint out of the flood without losing one’s wider perspective.

This is one of the reasons I am spending more time reading longer-form pieces that offer analysis and insight rather than just reportage and opinion. There is no single source to recommend: understanding China demands imbibing knowledge from as wide a scope of sources as possible. A new addition to my list is The China Story, a project of the Australian Centre on China in the World, and thankfully they publish a yearbook of the best perspectives that they collect.

This year’s Yearbook, available gratis in .pdf, ePub, and Kindle formats, is edited by Dr. Geremie Barmé, a professor of Chinese literary, intellectual, and cultural history at the Australian National University, in collaboration with Jeremy Goldkorn and his excellent Danwei Media. As such, it balances perspectives of China both from within and without.

The virtue of this volume is that it is designed to enhance understanding of what is happening in China among people who don’t spend their days in or thinking about the Middle Kingdom. Apart from providing a superb layman’s overview of some of the key issues facing the country, the book also offers helpful sidebars explaining important concepts. It is as if the authors thought about what James Fallows might write on these topics, and went deeper for a genuinely interested audience.

If you spend your days absorbing the analysis of the professional China commentariat, or if you are a China scholar, you would be served to give this work a quick skim, if for no other reason than to see how well these writers frame China. But If you or someone you know is looking to get a better appraisal of developments in China than what they are getting in the mainstream media without spending hours a day doing so, this book is an excellent place to start.

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