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International Socialism, Winter 1962


P. Mansell

Modern China


From International Socialism, No.11, Winter 1962, p.29.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Victor Purcell
Ernest Benn. 37s.6d.

This book, in the Nations of the Modern World series gives a quick Cook’s tour of various aspects of contemporary China – political institutions, economic planning, foreign relations, status of women etc. – with a brief excursion into Chinese geography, history, traditional philosophies, literature and so on.

Dr Purcell who spent many years in the Malayan Civil Service and is now Lecturer in far eastern history at Cambridge, has first-hand knowledge of China. He makes no secret of his sympathies with the present regime and when he deals with such awkward, issues as the sudden withering of the ‘Hundred Flowers’, he tends to offer uncritically the ‘official’ explanation.

‘The Chinese Communists regard themselves as being at war – at war with their own backwardness – and the fair yardstick of comparison is not the peaceful, comfortable, post-war Western world, but (say) the England of 1914-18 or 1939-45 when so many sacrifices of liberty were made as part of the war effort’.

At the same time he does not purport to attempt any Marxist analysis of the Chinese phenomenon. There is thus no discussion of the class nature of the Chinese revolution, or the relationship now between the workers and the means of production, or of the structure of the Chinese Communist Party, or of the direction in which the regime is likely to evolve. While, therefore, the book contains a good deal of useful information, its value as an interpretation of developments in China is strictly limited.

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Last updated on 19 March 2010