I am amused at the plus one this received, despite my initial place holder publishing the article. Still, it humbles me to realize some of you had read this despite the total lack of content. I guess my previous reviews were of some note.
Short: This book is an amazing short but comprehensive history of China.
Medium: The book works primarily through biographies of individuals who live at key points in China's history, starting in the almost mythological past, and going up to the Tienamin Massacre. It is fairly tone neutral but at the same time does not hesitate to make judgement when obvious that it adds weight and substance to the history presented.
Verbose: This is an excellent book. It is said in 1984 and now elsewhere that those who wish to control the future control the past. If knowledge is power, then controlling the past can be better accomplished through understanding it, and if there is any country on earth affected by its Past, that would be China. I gained vast insights into their current behavior, including the important of identity in terms of nationality (Taiwan) as well as their obsession over the seemingly harmless Fu Lon Gong. The current government may have its flaws, but they have clearly learned (some) lessons of the past and are determined not to have them happen again.
Still, the more interesting sections of the book are comparing the vibrant eras of their past, with the eras that led to decline. Some things apply to any culture, especially our own; though some most definitely do not. What fascinates me is what I see of the echoes of the Beuaracacy and how it still haunts in some elements of the Communist Party today, though I make as few assumptions as I can in that vein.
I knew a lot about China before I read this book because I read a lot of news. What I learned in this book after the fact forced me to go back and look at a lot of recent events in a whole new light. I would highly recommend reading it.