The Last Secret: The Final Documents from the June Fourth Crackdown
Edited by Bao Pu
Introduction by Columbia University Professor Andrew J. Nathan

New Century Press, Hong Kong, May 2019
ISBN: 978-988-13296
362 pages

This collection of documents (from the Tiananmen Square protest period) joins a succession of books smuggled out of China that have shed light on the upheavals of 1989, a topic that the Communist Party subjects to ruthless censorship. Together the documents, per Ian Johnson writing in the June 27, 2019 edition of New York Review of Books, “form a record of a meeting of Communist Party leaders that took place two weeks after the Tiananmen massacre. The meeting, called by China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, was an effort to force party leaders to retroactively endorse Deng’s decision to use force on the protesters and to fire the Communist Party’s General Secretary, Zhao Ziyang.” He continues, “Ultimately, this book is a case study in how the party has managed to keep itself in power, and how the current leadership functions.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bao Pu is the publisher and founder of New Century Press in Hong Kong. Over the past 14 years he has published several important works on Chinese politics. New Century Press is best known for its Chinese-language memoirs and historical and political titles including Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution and Mao’s Great Famine. Mr. Bao participated in the 1989 Tiananmen protests, and then moved to the United States where he became a citizen and worked as a consultant. In 2001, he moved to Hong Kong, working first at a high-tech start-up. In 2005, he and his wife founded New Century Press.


China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship
By Jean-Pierre Cabestan

Rowman and Littlefield, June 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5381-2958-6
pages

Arguing against conventional wisdom, this important book makes a compelling case for the continuing strength of China’s one-party system. Many analysts have predicted that China’s unprecedented economic development and middle-class expansion would lead to a liberalization of its political regime and a move toward democracy. Instead, leading scholar Jean-Pierre Cabestan contends that the Chinese Communist Party will continue to adapt and prosper in the coming decades, representing a growing challenge to all democracies. Influenced by China’s traditional culture and even more so by the regime’s Soviet ideology, institutions, and modus operandi, most Chinese are not pushing for democracy, choosing security, stability and prosperity over political freedoms and participation.

REVIEWS:

Cabestan has used his long scholarly engagement with China and wide reading to describe the remarkable hybridity of the Communist Party and the ways that this operates as a source of strength and flexibility. This is a nuanced and focused corrective to the more apocalyptic work on China’s future—one that shows that while beset by challenges, the party’s keen sense of survival and its use of opacity and control means it is likely to be the only viable game in town for some time yet.
— Kerry Brown, King’s College London

In this impressively well-informed book, Cabestan presents a comprehensive analysis of China’s political system, its history and culture, and its policies and achievements. He argues convincingly that even though the Chinese system is beset with difficulties, it is too strong to collapse for a long time to come. And even when the current system does finally weaken, it is likely to remain authoritarian and resistant to Western influence, only less orderly and more dangerous than it is today. This is a valuable contribution to our understanding of China today and our ability to understand its probable future.
— Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University

Don’t be misled by the question mark: China tomorrow—and for the next decade at least—will remain dictatorial. Most Chinese are grateful to the regime that relieved them from poverty. Far beyond this commonsense remark, Cabestan’s comprehensive analysis of factors such as democratic values, civil society, and the role of elites takes care to give full weight to every conceivable objection before concluding in favor of the party-state’s resilience. For such an audacious synthesis dealing with the future to be convincing is both wonderful and unfortunate: Cabestan himself would prefer to be proven wrong.
— Lucien Bianco, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jean-Pierre Cabestan is professor of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University. He is also senior research fellow in France’s National Center for Scientific Research.


A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution

By Toby Green

University of Chicago Press, March, 2019
ISBN: 978-0226644578
614 pages

By the time the “Scramble for Africa” among European colonial powers began in the late nineteenth century, Africa had already been globally connected for centuries. Its gold had fueled the economies of Europe and the Islamic world for nearly a millennium, and the sophisticated kingdoms spanning its west coast had traded with Europeans since the fifteenth century. Until at least 1650, this was a trade of equals, using a variety of currencies—most importantly, cowrie shells imported from the Maldives and nzimbu shells imported from Brazil. But, as the slave trade grew, African kingdoms began to lose prominence in the growing global economy. We have been living with the effects of this shift ever since.

With A Fistful of Shells, Toby Green transforms our view of West and West-Central Africa by reconstructing the world of these kingdoms, which revolved around trade, diplomacy, complex religious beliefs, and the production of art. Green shows how the slave trade led to economic disparities that caused African kingdoms to lose relative political and economic power. The concentration of money in the hands of Atlantic elites in and outside these kingdoms brought about a revolutionary nineteenth century in Africa, parallel to the upheavals then taking place in Europe and America. Yet political fragmentation following the fall of African aristocracies produced radically different results as European colonization took hold.

Drawing not just on written histories, but on archival research in nine countries, art, oral history, archaeology, and letters, Green lays bare the transformations that have shaped world politics and the global economy since the fifteenth century and paints a new and masterful portrait of West Africa, past and present.

REVIEWS:

“All too often, the history of early modern Africa is told from the perspective of outsiders. In his book A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution, Toby Green draws upon a range of underutilized sources to describe the evolution of West Africa over a period of four transformative centuries. With these sources Green demonstrates that the region was integrated into the developing transcontinental trade networks far earlier than is often portrayed in more Western-centric accounts, and in ways that influenced the development of local communities long before European ships arrived off of their coast.”
– New Books Network

“One of its great strengths is that it reveals the often surprising success that Africans had throughout the first four hundred years of their encounter with Europe. . . . [a] sprawling and nuanced look at the steady depletion of a continent with a powerful lament about the lack of academic interest in Africa’s precolonial eras.”
– New York Review of Books

“Green. . . shows that cultural and commercial ties connecting west Africa to the wider world existed and flourished long before the consolidation of a capitalist system dominated by Europe and its settler-colonies. What was lost in the acceleration of western capitalism was a more generous, expansive and flexible idea of equality.”
– The Guardian

“Very seldom do I pick up a history book and wish I had written it myself. Toby Green’s Fistful of Shells is one such book. Brilliantly conceptualized, beautifully written, Fistful of Shells breaks with colonially configured regional boundaries—which work to re-create unintended silos of knowledge—to imagine a West and West Central African Atlantic era history of money, power, religion, and inequality that is as rich as it is sound.”
– Nwando Achebe, Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor of History, Michigan State University

“The range and depth of this book is simply stunning. By masterfully drawing on primary research and secondary sources in multiple languages, Green delivers a provocative book that is also a landmark of historical imagination and craftsmanship.”
– Roquinaldo Ferreira, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Toby Green is a senior lecturer in Lusophone African history and culture at King’s College London and is author of The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300-1589.


Dreamers: How Young Indians are Changing the World
By Snigdha Poonam

Harvard University Press, August 2018
ISBN-10: 978-067-498817
ISBN-13: 978-067-4988170
271 pages

REVIEWS:

“A superbly reported study of aspirational Indian millennials and one of the best books about Modi’s India to date.”
―Maya Jasanoff, New York Review of Books

“. . .The basic truth lurking behind the stories is that Indian society is not a meritocracy. It is a closed hierarchy controlled by a few who have led millions of people down a doomed path of false promises…Poonam’s reporting focuses on the lack of jobs and shortage of skills, but ultimately the story she tells suggests a bigger political narrative behind these stories. In the world’s largest democracy, the few who have power want to hold on to it instead of distributing it to the many so that they can better themselves.”
―Kushanava Choudhury, Wall Street Journal

“Poonam has a gift for finding the most telling stories of our time and constructs a powerful argument…We encounter two sets of young Indians. With virtually no help, one is determined to build India. The other will break it.”
―Sonia Faleiro, Financial Times

“Rich and perceptive…Poonam’s writes with incredible sensitivity and lays bare the circumstances that produce the desire to dream big and to chase success against all odds―by hook or by crook.”
―Sneha Annavarapu, Public Books

“Harrowing…Dreamers smashes the slick hype that has been constructed around India’s aspiring middle classes, calling our attention to the corruption, frustration, and dashed hopes bubbling beneath the surface. It may be convenient for India’s elites to whitewash these inconvenient truths. But, as Poonam shows, it would also be suicidal.”
―Milan Vaishnav, Foreign Affairs

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Snigdha Poonam is a journalist based in New Delhi. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the New York Times, and Granta. She currently reports on national affairs at the Hindustan Times. She won the 2017 Journalist of Change award for a work of reportage that appeared on Huffington Post. Dreamers is her first book.


Scots and Catalans: Union and Disunion
By J.H. Elliott

Yale University Press, August 2018
ISBN: 987-0-300-234954
339 pages

A landmark account that reveals the long history behind the current Catalan and Scottish independence movements. The book is a finalist in the 2019 Los Angeles Times Prizes, History category

A distinguished historian of Spain and Europe provides an enlightening account of the development of nationalist and separatist movements in contemporary Catalonia and Scotland. This first sustained comparative study uncovers the similarities and the contrasts between the Scottish and Catalan experiences across a five-hundred-year period, beginning with the royal marriages that brought about union with their more powerful neighbors, England and Castile respectively, and following the story through the centuries from the end of the Middle Ages until today’s dramatic events.

J. H. Elliott examines the political, economic, social, cultural, and emotional factors that divide Scots and Catalans from the larger nations to which their fortunes were joined. He offers new insights into the highly topical subject of the character and development of European nationalism, the nature of separatism, and the sense of grievance underlying the secessionist aspirations that led to the Scottish referendum of 2014, the illegal Catalan referendum of October 2017, and the resulting proclamation of an independent Catalan republic.

REVIEWS

“A pioneering and scrupulously even-handed comparative history.”
—The Economist

“J. H. Elliott is a superb guide through the complexities of Catalan and Scottish history. With a deft touch and lucid prose he fully demonstrates the great value of historical comparison for understanding present conditions in both societies.”
—Professor Emeritus Sir Tom Devine, University of Edinburgh

“J.H. Elliott’s new book offers a deeply considered and timely perspective on the attempts of the Scottish and Catalan nationalist movements to secure independence. Written with all his customary elegance and incisiveness, it is authoritative in its historical assessments and notably fair-minded in its examination of controversial issues. Scots and Catalans provides the essential starting point for anyone who wishes to understand the problems currently besetting both London and Madrid on their northern periphery.”
—Professor Hamish Scott, FBA, All Souls College, Oxford.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J. H. Elliott is Regius Professor Emeritus of Modern History at Oxford University. He was knighted for his services to history and has been honored by the Spanish government. He won the Balzan Prize for his publications on European history and the Francis Parkman Prize for Empires of the Atlantic World.


Democracy for Sale: Elections, Clientism, and the State of Indonesia
By Edward Espinall and Ward Berenschot

Cornell University Press, April 2019

ISBN 10: 150-173-2986
ISBN 13: 978-150-173-2980
318 pages

Edward Aspinall and Ward Berenschot assess the informal networks and political strategies that shape access to power and privilege in the messy political environment of contemporary Indonesia.

In post-Suharto Indonesian politics the exchange of patronage for political support is commonplace. Clientelism, argue the authors, saturates the political system, and in Democracy for Sale they reveal the everyday practices of vote buying, influence peddling, manipulating government programs, and skimming money from government projects. In doing so, Aspinall and Berenschot advance three major arguments. The first argument points toward the role of religion, kinship, and other identities in Indonesian clientelism. The second explains how and why Indonesia’s distinctive system of free-wheeling clientelism came into being. And the third argument addresses variation in the patterns and intensity of clientelism. Through these arguments and with comparative leverage from political practices in India and Argentina, Democracy for Sale provides compelling evidence of the importance of informal networks and relationships rather than formal parties and institutions in contemporary Indonesia.

REVIEWS:

“A painstakingly researched examination of the way Indonesia has become a patronage democracy…. Aspinall and Berenschot’s book shows how many has weakened political parties, ensures that personalities matter more than policy, favors incumbents, and almost forces politicians to become corrupt in order to recoup the expense of running for office.”
– New York Review of Books

“Democracy for Sale combines rich details about the variety and variability of clientelism in Indonesia with a framework for comparing and analyzing clientelism across a variety of country contexts. This is a volume all scholars of clientelism, patronage, and money politics will want on their shelf.”
– Allen Hicken, University of Michigan

“Democracy for Sale promises to be a major contribution to Indonesian politics, and also a book that will be read, discussed, and cited by authors working cross-nationally.”
Tom Pepinsky, Cornell University, and author of Economic Crises and the Breakdown of Authoritarian Regimes

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Edward Aspinall is a professor and researches Indonesian and Southeast Asian politics at the Department of Political and Social Change, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University.

Ward Berenschot is a political scientist researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV Leiden) specialising in identity politics and local democracy in India and Indonesia.

Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century
By Kathryn Kikkink

Princeton University Press, March 2019
ISBN 10: 978-0691192715
ISBN 13: 978-0691192710
318 pages

A history of the successes of the human rights movement and a case for why human rights wor. “Honorable Mention for the 2019 Luciano Tomassini Latin American International Relations Book Award, Latin American Studies Association”

Evidence for Hope makes the case that yes, human rights work. Critics may counter that the movement is in serious jeopardy or even a questionable byproduct of Western imperialism. Guantánamo is still open and governments are cracking down on NGOs everywhere. But human rights expert Kathryn Sikkink draws on decades of research and fieldwork to provide a rigorous rebuttal to doubts about human rights laws and institutions. Past and current trends indicate that in the long term, human rights movements have been vastly effective. Exploring the strategies that have led to real humanitarian gains since the middle of the twentieth century, Evidence for Hope looks at how essential advances can be sustained for decades to come.

REVIEWS:

“Evidence for Hope combines scientific rigor in addressing major, contemporary criticisms of human rights with the ability to propose objective means of promoting them exactly where it seems most crucial.”
– Isabela Garbin Ramanzini, International Affairs

“Sikkink counters skeptics from the left and the right who have argued that the persistence of grave human rights violations throughout the world is evidence that the movement has failed and should be abandoned altogether. On the contrary, she concludes, the struggle for human rights has indeed made a difference.”
– Caroline Bettinger-López, Foreign Affairs

“Sikkink presents a slew of data about progress in basic rights since the 1940s and warns against a tendency by activists and the media not to stress progress and successes.”
– Christian Science Monitor

“With this book, Kathryn Sikkink shines a light on hope in times of disarray. She exposes how activists and politicians used human rights principles and institutions to end colonialism in Africa and Asia, and state terrorism in Latin America. Evidence for Hope demonstrates that human rights matter today more than ever.”
– Luis Moreno Ocampo, former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathryn Sikkink is the Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study She teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School. Recent books include The Justice Cascade, Evidence for Hope, and Activists beyond Borders. She has been awarded the Grawemeyer Award (for Ideas for Improving World Order), the Robert F. Kennedy Center Book Award, and the WOLA/Duke University Award. She has been a Fulbright Scholar in Argentina and a Guggenheim fellow.

 


Calm Before the Storm: Desert Storm Diaries and Other Stories
By Marlin Fitzwater

Sea-Hill Press, Inc., October 2019
ISBN -10: 1937720470
ISBN -13: 978-1937720476
408 pages
As Press Secretary to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Marlin Fitzwater’s role was to record and present the official events of the Presidency. In Calm Before the Storm, Fitzwater recounts his private discussions and observations, supported by speeches and press conferences, while serving those two Presidents for ten years, 1983-93.

Calm Before the Storm features a collection of the Mr. Fitzwater’s private views inside President Bush’s White House during the Persian Gulf Crisis as well as anecdotes and insights from his Kansas upbringing to his career in Washington, D.C. His engaging writing together with his compilation of notes, memos and briefings give the reader a front row seat to some of America’s most defining moments. Fitzwater’s diary entries provide a play-by-play look at what transpired inside the White House in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s audacious moves to control a portion of the world’s oil reserves and substantial coastline on the Persian Gulf. From the press briefings to deployment of troops Fitzwater gives the reader personal accounts of his interactions with President Bush and world leaders. Taken together, the book offers insight to the states of mind of the powerful people responsible for making monumental decisions and serves as the backdrop of a story that is as much about presidential leadership and American principles as it is about those pivotal moments in history.

Dedicated to the memory of George and Barbara Bush, the book closes with a series of remembrances of President Bush written by some of his National Security staff and other senior officers: all of whom expressed their thoughts and feelings through short essays.

The foreword is provided by Kenneth T. Walsh, White House news correspondent and historian.

REVIEWS

“The author of one of my favorite books, Call the Briefing, is back with another memoir about life as press secretary to two Presidents. Marlin Fitzwater is a master storyteller – you can’t believe all that he’s witnessed, and we’re blessed that he’s willing to share his private writings and memories with us.”
– Dana Pereno, Fox News & White House Press Secretary, President George W. Bush

“This book reads just like Marlin: it’s keenly observed, brutally honest, clear-eyed, plain-spoken and sometimes really funny – proof of why he was appointed White House press secretary by two presidents – and was one of the very best.”
– Dee Dee Myers, White House Press Secretary, President William J. Clinton

“There is no one better at the job of working with the White House press corps than Marlin Fitzwater, a farm boy from Kansas who made it to the top as Spokesman for two Presidents. You’ll find the stories Marlin tells fascinating (an inside look reporters don’t see) but also a welcome reminder of a time when Presidents and their Press Secretary tried to their jobs with integrity, honesty and civility.”
– Sam Donaldson, ABC News White House Correspondent

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marlin Fitzwater is an American writer who served as White House Press Secretary for Presidents Ronald Reagan and then George H. W. Bush, making him one of the longest-serving U.S. Press Secretaries in history. He has many published works and private releases to his credit. He was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 1992 and is the founder of Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication located at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire.

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