Alan Lawrance's volume does a reasonably good job of summarising China's recent past for the general reader or for first-year undergraduates with no prior knowledge of China. It is strongest on China's foreign relations, with a particularly good section drawing on cutting-edge recent Research on the Korean war.
The space given to foreign affairs necessarily restricts that available for discussing domestic developments, but most of these sections are perfectly acceptable summaries of events and do introduce the reader to the main historical debates.
The exception is the Cultural Revolution chapter, which contains so many misleading or erroneous statements as to be positively unhelpful to beginners in Chinese history.
Michael Lynch's book is more appropriate in format for sixth-form students, with well-constructed study guides at the end of each chapter. Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet are covered well and in some detail, and the section on Sino-Soviet relations is particularly valuable. But the chapters on domestic affairs are littered with misleading statements and errors. A number of useful maps are provided, but although the romanisation conversion chart for Chinese names was a good idea, it contains 21 errors.
Jackie Sheehan is lecturer in international history, Keele University.
China Under Communism. First Edition
Author - Alan Lawrance
ISBN - £30.00 and £9.99
Publisher - Routledge
Price - £30.00 and £9.99
Pages - 158