The 2017 SupChina Winter Reading List

Your brain needs expanding, and you need to buy gifts for your smart friends! We’re here to help with our selection of books recommended by our editors.

All the books on our list have been published within the past six months. If you think we’ve left out something important, please let us know: If you need more recommendations, check out our 2017 summer reading list.


The China Questions: Critical Insights Into a Rising Power

  • Edited by Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi
  • To be published in January 2018

This collection of short essays by a veritable who’s who of the China-watching community tackles some of the most frequently asked questions across a wide range of topics, from elite politics to Chinese identity, from economics to the environment, and from ethnic tensions to historiography. The 30 authors are all affiliates of Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and the editors have done an admirable job in keeping each essay brief, accessible, and chock-full of insight.


Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve

  • By Lenora Chu
  • Published in September 2017

When American journalist Lenora Chu moved to Shanghai, she faced tough choices about where and how to educate her kindergarten-age son. She chose an elite state-run school down the street, but soon found that its authoritarian teaching style offended many of her liberal American sensibilities. At the same time, she found herself appreciating the discipline and mathematical rigor that the system was instilling in Rainey.

She embarked on an investigative mission to answer the question: What price do the Chinese pay to produce their “smart” kids, and what lessons might Western parents and educators learn from this system? Her book tells the story of China’s educational system, weaving her personal struggle to make the right educational choices for her son with research and interviews with students, teachers, and scholars.

Chu was interviewed on the Sinica Podcast in an episode titled Authoritarian schooling in Shanghai vs. the American approach.

U.S.-China-Japan relations

Asia’s Reckoning: China, Japan, and the Fate of U.S. Power in the Pacific Century

  • By Richard McGregor
  • Published in September 2017

Richard McGregor is the former Washington and Beijing bureau chief of the Financial Times, and author of an acclaimed book titled The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers. His new book tells the story of the three most important powers in East Asia — China, Japan, and the U.S. — none of whose histories and motives can be fully understood without some knowledge of the other two.

Asia’s Reckoning contains fascinating accounts of the events that have defined relations between the three countries since World War II. These include: how the U.S. blindsided Japan by acknowledging Beijing as the Chinese capital with only a few hours of notice in 1971; how Japan’s leaders have refused to grapple with the reality of comfort women during the war; and how China’s leaders and media have comfortably settled into using anti-Japanese sentiment as a tool of political expediency.

McGregor was interviewed on the Sinica Podcast in an episode titled Richard McGregor on the complicated ties between China, Japan, and the U.S. since World War II.


Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional Economic Wisdom Is Wrong

  • By Yukon Huang
  • Published in July 2017

Yukon Huang, former country director for China with the World Bank, takes on not only the prevailing bearish sentiment on China’s economy over the supposed debt bomb, but also two ideas widely accepted among the more bullish: that China’s growth needs to be more balanced (with less focus on export and investment and more on consumption), and that Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive will ultimately be better for China’s economy. This relatively short book offers a meditation on the fundamental reasons for Western pessimism on China’s economic prospects, and highly original ideas on how to understand China’s remarkable growth since reform and opening began in 1979.


A Village With My Name: A Family History of China’s Opening to the World

  • By Scott Tong
  • Published in November 2017

Scott Tong was a recent guest on the Sinica Podcast, where he talked about his new book on uncovering surprising family truths in Jiangsu Province. We enthusiastically recommend it.


China in Drag: Travels With a Cross-Dresser

  • By Michael Bristow
  • Published in December 2017

Michael Bristow tells the story of “The Teacher,” a Beijinger whose transvestism is just one aspect of a life fully lived — from the Cultural Revolution to modern day.

Bristow appeared on the Sinica Podcast episode China in drag: Michael Bristow discusses his new book on China’s — and one man’s — incredible transformation.


The Spy’s Daughter

  • By Adam Brookes
  • Published in October 2017

The Spy’s Daughter is the third book in a trilogy by Adam Brookes, a former BBC correspondent in China who quit his job and started writing spy fiction set in China. You’ll want to check out the first and second books in the trilogy as well: Night Heron and Spy Games.

Remember to also check out our 2017 summer reading list.