In Search of the Real China

John Pomfret
Content Type
Journal Article
Foreign Affairs
Issue Number
Publication Date
November/December 2013
Council on Foreign Relations
My First Trip to China: Scholars, Diplomats, and Journalists Reflect on Their First Encounters With China. 
Edited by Kin-Ming Liu. East Slope Publishing, 2012, 316 pp. $28.00. Over the last decade or so, historians and journalists have chipped away -- some with sledgehammers, others with mallets -- at several long-standing myths about China's past. China wasn't all darkness and pain before the communist revolution of 1949, and Western efforts to change the country, long portrayed by historians as a tragic dead end, have been far more successful than anyone could have ever dreamed -- to cite just two. The weight of these and other revelations should demand a fundamental reassessment of China's position in the world, both in the past and going forward. But don't hold your breath. China scholars and average citizens alike still cling to their own personal notions of the “authentic” China, deeply rooted in the soil of their imaginations.
Political Geography