China's history is so vast, its geography so massive, its politics so controversial, and its customs so perplexing, that there was just no way to contain this list to ten books. Even twenty is cutting it short. The country's long, abysmal record of human rights abuses, rampant government corruption, heartless property confiscation and categorical censorship of news, knowledge and information make China fertile grounds for fiction and non-fiction alike. Some of these books are shocking, some scholarly, some simply entertaining, but each reveal a different facet of Chinese culture that, when read all together, should give readers a complete and well-rounded portrait of a nation that just might become the next world superpower.
It's no secret that the Chinese and Japanese despise each other, or at least their governments do. It is a sibling rivalry that dates back millennia, but came to a head during the early-20th century Sino-Japanese war, whence Japanese soldiers stormed China's then-capital city of Nanjing and proceeded to rape, mutilate and execute upwards of 400,000 innocent Chinese civilians within just 8 weeks. Or so claims Iris Chang (the Japanese military wholly denies this event took place), who was commissioned by the Communist Party to write this fact-finding novel. Chang later committed suicide for mysterious reasons, but her work holds an important place in academia, for, if true, then the Nanking Massacre is the world's worst war-time holocaust in history.
Following the commercial success of her best-selling family biography, Wild Swans, Chinese author Jung Chang felt confident enough to tackle the life of China's most hated - and loved - leader: Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong. Chang alleges that Mao was hardly the brilliant military strategist and patriotic rebel that revisionist Chinese propaganda portrays him as, but rather an opportunistic, hypocritical, bumbling and bloodthirsty killer who climbed China's political ladder upon the bodies of tens of millions of innocent civilians. Faulted for lacking proper citations or irref*table evidence, even if just half of this controversial biography is true, then we can be sure that Mao Zedong is in a very warm place right about now.
China's single-party government has been controlled by the Communists since the 1949 inception of Mao Zedong's New China. The Party controls every aspect of life in China, from censoring news to suppressing spirituality to limiting 1 child per family. The Communists are also directly responsible for the deaths of at least 100 million innocent lives under 60+ years of disastrous social experiments. But what 1.3 billion citizens fail to understand is that there is absolutely no legal or even constitutional basis for the Communist Party to exist. At any point, the people could rise up and take control of their oppressors. Richard McGregor makes this and other cases in his meticulously researched book, while also revealing how someone might go about joining the Communist Party, how they are promoted in its dog-eat-dog ranks, and how they thrive under its openly-corrupt lifestyle of bribery and murder.
In short, the Great Leap Forward was a politically-exacerbated famine in China whereby 45 MILLION innocent civilians were purposefully starved to death, in the course of 4 years, under direct orders from Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, making it one of the largest human slaughters in the history of mankind. In his revealing book, Frank DikÃ¶tter explains that Mao, deluded with visions of China becoming a world superpower under his reign, thought that locking up the entire peasant population of China in labor communes to generate steel and wheat around the clock was a good idea. What resulted instead was corrupted metals, falsified harvest reports, and millions of people being worked literally to death. Present-day CPC leaders like to pretend that this incident never occurred, which makes this book even more valuable.