Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750 by Odd Arne Westad - review by Robert Bickers

Robert Bickers

Beyond the Great Wall

Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750


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How do you solve a problem like China? Over the last 250 years, as LSE historian Odd Arne Westad shows in this lucid and engaging book, the country’s place in the world has been puzzled over by the Manchus, who ruled it until 1911 as the empire of their Qing Dynasty; by the Chinese revolutionaries who overthrew them and established a Republic; by its Asian near neighbours; and by the colonial empires that held such sway within its borders for a century after 1842. The solutions proposed differed widely – empire, republic, colony, client state, among others – but all agreed that China was a problem that needed solving.

The issues were fundamental. What was China? Where should its borders be? Should it be a single country? Who exactly were its peoples? How should they be governed? Many of the world’s modern states are comparatively young, and most have also been through difficult soul-searching periods, but few have travelled

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