SOCIAL SCIENCES

Beijing: Geography, History, and Culture

ABC-CLIO. Mar. 2020. 280p. ISBN 9781440868047. $63. REF
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Guo (geography & San Francisco State Univ.) has produced a rich, accessible guide to not only the capital of China but also to the country at large. A chronology begins circa 700,000 BCE (incidentally tracing the city’s numerous name changes). A country and city map, many statistical tables, occasional black-and-white photos, a substantial bibliography, and a copious index add to the work’s utility and appeal. Nostalgic sidebars from Beijing residents contribute a vivid personal note; travelers will appreciate the information on historical monuments. The history chapter is a concise and lucid review of China’s past, with a useful summary at the end. A brief geography chapter is followed by lengthy ones evaluating economics and politics (with their own histories). Chapters on people, crime, terrorism, the environment, emergency management, culture, and future city planning produce an in-depth picture. Each chapter stands alone, though also comprises part of a comprehensive whole. Guo’s assessment of controversial issues, such as the destruction of Beijing’s historic city walls and gates, the tenuous status of migrant workers, the measurement of air quality, rural disadvantages, the calculation of “green space,” and the issue of corruption, is largely balanced and informed.
VERDICT This authoritative account is a valuable resource for secondary and undergraduate students, business leaders, travelers, and general readers seeking substantive, up-to-date background on this world city.

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