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  • China at War– An encyclopedia (Book Review)
  • Jul 6 2012 11:28PM
  • by Sushil Sharma
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  • China at War –An Encyclopedia; Edited by Dr. Xiaobing Li, Published by: Pentagon Press, Price: Rs.1900/-.

    Everything that one has ever wanted to know about China’s military strategy is contained in this single volume: From the Confucian-Mencian paradigm to the tales of the “White Lotus Rebellion” of 1796 to the Tiananmen Square events of 1989 to the horrors of the Nanjing rape of 1937.

    But this compilation stands out for other reasons too: The objectivity and meticulousness of the presentation of facts; its reader-friendly approach and its broad sweep of coverage.

    “China at War” is a 545-paged encyclopedia of a different and refreshing kind: No bogging down the reader to the intricacies and technicalities of military strategy alone, it spreads its canvas across the range of socio-economic, religious or political realities that have shaped China’s military doctrine.

    Theories of war are immaculately blended in their historical, cultural or political perspectives and – unlike other books such as these - there are no presumptive dialogues.

    The book does not intimidate the reader; it seems to invite them to read. And this remarkable outcome has been brought about without compromising in the least bit on the rigors of academic exercise.

    Edited by Xiaobing Li – director of the Western Pacific Institute at the University of Central Oklahoma – chapters in the volume have been authored by among the best known names in the field: Dr. Timothy C Dowling of the Virginia Military Institute, Dr. Dewan Zhang of the Sun Yat Sen University in Taiwan, Dr. Lorenz M Lithi of the McGill University of Canada and Dr. Priscilla Mary Roberts at the University of Hong Kong.

    Dr. Li is the author of other seminal works including ‘A History of the Modern Chinese Army’, ‘Voices from the Vietnam War’ and ‘Civil Liberties in China’.

    In the first book of its kind, this comprehensive volume traces the Chinese military and its experiences over the past 2,500 years; describing clashes with other kingdoms and countries, as well as internal rebellions and revolutions.

    There can be little argument about this: That China’s role on the international stage is becoming more and more predominant. Understanding the Chinese perspective of war and its military strategy is a subject of critical importance today – as an examination of China’s military history can provide great insight into what the future might bring.

    The encyclopedia expands far beyond the conventional military book. It provides a broad, chronological account of China’s long military history, while also addressing Chinese values, concepts and attitudes regarding war.

    Topics among the hundreds of entries by experts in the field include Sunzu’s classic ‘The Art of War’, Mao Zedong’s guerilla warfare in the 20th century, Chinese involvement in the Korean and the Vietnam wars and China’s nuclear program in the 21st century.

    Other entries include the story of Ghenghis Khan; the history of the construction of the Great Wall; about how Gunpowder was invented and used as a deadly weapon of war – the Tiasnanmen Square events and other historical developments such as the White Lotus Rebellion or the story about the famous ‘Gang of Four’.

    Ostensibly, the book has been compiled with this central concern: Of providing to readers a better understanding the wider socio-political history of one of the largest and most populous countries of the world – grasping the complex security concerns and strategic calculations involved in China’s decision-making process.

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