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The Shortest History of China

From the Ancient Dynasties to a Modern Superpower—A Retelling for Our Times

By Linda Jaivin

For anyone eager to discover the country behind today’s headlines, highly respected China expert Linda Jaivin distills the complete history of China into a short, smart, entertaining account that charts the Middle Kingdom’s tumultuous journey—from ancient dynastic rule to modern superpower status under Xi Jinping.
Once known as the Middle Kingdom, China is a much-storied land, full of heroes and villains, prosperous ages and violent rebellions, cultural vibrancy and censorious impulses. For centuries, China led the world in science, technology, astronomy, and math. The Chinese invented porcelain, silk, gunpowder, and the magnetic compass, among other innovations. In the twentieth century, China saw the rise of communism under Chairman Mao and the bloody Cultural Revolution.
China today is just as multifaceted: Depending on what you read, it is an economic powerhouse; a beacon of rapid urbanization and industrialization; a top travel destination filled with cultural and natural beauty; a secretive political state rife with propaganda; one of the globe’s worst environmental polluters; an aggressive geopolitical player seeking world domination.
As we enter “the Asian Century,” China—now considered a modern superpower—increasingly demands our attention. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote in The New York Times, “China is a complex and contradictory place, not a caricature” that requires our fuller understanding. In The Shortest History of China, Linda Jaivin, an expert in Chinese politics, language, and culture, distills a vast history into a compact, riveting account that tells us what we really need to know about the Middle Kingdom—from its philosophical origins to its political systems—and its current position on the world stage.

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Linda Jaivin

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Review quotes
Advance Praise for the Australian Edition

“A fast-paced and witty survey of China’s past, written with spirit and verve. Jaivin knows her stuff but wears her erudition lightly. Iconoclastic, informative, and more attentive to female figures than many comparable works. Highly recommended.”—Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of Vigil: Hong Kong on the Brink
“An electrifying and erudite ride through Chinese history—Linda Jaivin has written an illuminating history book that is also a real page-turner.”—Alice Pung, author of Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter

“War, revolution, rise and fall, emperors, tyrants: China is more than a nation and bigger than a myth. It demands a great storyteller, and in Linda Jaivin, it has one.”—Stan Grant, author, journalist, and international affairs analyst for the Australian Broadcasting Commission
“It’s no mean feat to cover the entire history of China in fifteen chapters, but Linda Jaivin manages it with panache. Succinct, lucid, and with a keen eye for detail, this slim book is an indispensable primer on China.”—Louisa Lim, author of The People’s Republic of Amnesia and cohost of The Little Red Podcast

“Read this in a fever-fueled blitz, look up and I promise you that China—and indeed, the world—will make more sense.”Benjamin Law, Australian author, journalist, and broadcaster
Product Details
Shortest History Series
Number of pages
Publication date
September 28, 2021