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China and the West: A Conversation With China Scholar Jonathan Spence

Here is the link to an important interview with Yale scholar Jonathan Spence, arguiably the premier China scholar in America and author of many books.


In a brief summary, Spence discusses the background of Western influence in China and China's acceptance or rejection of Western influence. The internviewer is from the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanitities. The interviewer is the chairman of the NEH. It was published in 2010.


For understanding contemporary China and the headlines relating to the current leader of China attempting to replace the Western system, this interview is a must read. It explains the Chinese way of thinking over time. 


Scholars have no problem communicating among themselves. The big gap is between the scholars and the general public. Jonathan Spence is a great scholar who informs the general reader in an engaging way. His works, in other words, are not boring tomes.


Spence's books have the virtue of being accessible to the general reader. He is the Great Intrpreter. His first book about a Westerner in China was about the Jesuit Matteo Ricci in the seventheenth century. It remains a classic as does his book on China's search for modernity.


Asia has become the most important region in the world in terms of trade and development. Americans have a tendency not to understand Asia as it is composed of many cultures, religions and languages. China is the most important of these, because of its size and economic power. All too often, Americans have no background in Chinese thought and history, a trait, unfortunately, shared with many of those who report on China in the national press.


In my scholarly quest to inform the American public about the topic of Asia not well-covered in the press nor taught in schools, I have been influenced by my recent interaction with the editor of the magazine of the Association for Asian Studies, Lucien Ellington. He publishes an excellent magazine called Education About Asia, a magazine for teachers of all levels, but an excellent resource for a general reader. I encourage those curious for knowlege from authoritative sources to take a look at the magazine on the Association for Asian Studies website. 


For students who follow this blog: A good contemporary source of reportage on China is the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper that may be accessed online. The British magazine The Economist also has good China coverage.


I ask you, readers in the general public, to do your homework.That is the best way to form an opinion in a democratic republic.

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