John Fairbank and the American Understanding of Modern China

  • Publish Date: 1988-03-13
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Paul M. Evans
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Part biography, part intellectual history, this book explores the emergence of 20th-century China as a political force and the rise of US-China relations through the life of one of the most celebrated American intellectual figures of modern time, John King Fairbank. The author reconstructs the central events of Fairbank's life and times, concentrating especially on his role as a scholar and shaper of public opinion and policy. He explores the policy issues and cultural upheavals that accompanied the rise of modern China and US-China relations by examining Fairbank's role in this historic period. He describes the young Fairbank's awakening, during the 1930s, to the realities of Chinese political culture, his advocacy of a liberal response to the Chinese Revolution, his reluctant conversion to the Cold War orthodoxy, his emergence as a belated critic of the Vietnam War, and his self-vindicatory trips to China after the rapprochement of the 1970s. The growth of 20th-century Western knowledge of China, beginning with the writings and activities of a small group of British and American sinologists, developed largely as a result of Fairbank's leadership into a broad and vigorous transnational intellectual community. In rounding out his portrait of Fairbank as scholar-activist and academic entrepreneur, Evans explicates the political and theoretical struggles which have shaped Western understanding of the emergent China.