Great State: China and the World

Harper. Mar. 2020. 464p. ISBN 9780062950987. $32.50. HIST
Brook (history, Univ. of British Columbia; Sacred Mandates) convincingly argues that the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368) was a critical moment in Chinese history, which had profound impacts that reverberate to this day. This dynasty, established by Mongol descendents of Genghis Khan, incorporated new areas into the borders of China and introduced the concept of the Great State, which the author defines as “the right to extend authority…out across the entire world.” To make his case, the author tells the stories of 13 fascinating events from the 13th to the early 20th centuries. These stories of Chinese explorers, Portuguese merchants, Japanese occupiers, and more challenge the myth that China was historically a closed country. The book concludes with a discussion of China’s current internal and international situation. Readers will come away with a better understanding of China’s past and present.
VERDICT This enjoyable read is essential for all students of Chinese history, and accessible to anyone with a general interest in the topic. A solid companion to Odd Arne Westad’s Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750.

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