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Nigel Harris

Chinese Studies

(Summer 1968)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.33, Summer 1968, p.40.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Role of the Chinese Army
John Gittings
RIIA Oxford, 50s

Britain and the Rise of Communist China
Brian Porter
Oxford, 35s

John Gittings’ account of the Chinese army summarises virtually all the publicly available information on its subject. The book follows a roughly historical plan from the Civil War period, through the Korean War, the Great Leap Forward, to, roughly 1965 (that is, before the cultural revolution began). It is a solid and straightforward account, and useful for those reasons. It is also however rather lost in the detail and does not hazard much analysis, a standard feature of much modern work on China. The account seeks, in the terms of ordinary political debate on China, to be eminently ‘fair,’ and this does not help the clarity of analysis. There is very little on the social content of the army, and less than necessary on the social role of the army. However, given these limitations, it is a useful piece of work. Mr Porter is concerned to describe British opinions of China between 1945 and 1954. He does this straightforwardly by illustrating Right and Left views drawn from Parliament, the press, and other works. When the survey is complete, it is unclear what exactly has been achieved since we do not know how representative the views are, and in any case, we do not know whether it matters – policy is not a simple function of opinion or ‘attitudes.’ The book also makes many judgements which it would be irksome to challenge, but which do not enhance the slightly thin quality of the account.

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Last updated: 19.6.2008