The Lacquered Talisman: A novel of fourteenth century China, Laurie Dennis (Earnshaw 2020)
The Lacquered Talisman: A novel of fourteenth century China, Laurie Dennis (Earnshaw 2020)

A sweeping coming-of-age epic, The Lacquered Talisman launches the story of one of the most influential figures in Chinese history. He is the son of a bean curd seller and he will found the Ming Dynasty, which ruled China from 1368-1644.

If there were an award for the best book title, Blockchain Chicken Farm would surely be in running for 2020. Xiaowei Wang leads off this collection of connected essays about technology and society with a story about how the blockchain has been deployed in China’s rural organic chicken farms to provide untamperable provenance for China’s upscale consumers.

Andrew B Liu’s Tea War comes with a promising title and an equally promising concept. What better window into macro-economic evolution of east and south Asia than the development of iconic beverage of the region, “the most consumed beverage around the world today” aside from water? And war it was, between the centuries-old Chinese and nascent Indian exports of a quintessentially Asian commodity.

For the countries of Southeast Asia, geographical proximity to China is a blessing and a curse. In the Dragon’s Shadow, Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century, by Sebastian Strangio, manages to sketch the history these nations have with China and detail the current geopolitical situation in an engaging fashion. While the book is prefaced with an imposing list of acronyms for the political parties and economic agreements discussed, this Yale University Press publication is the work of a journalist with an excellent grip on history rather than an academic.

Ten years ago, a spate of suicides at Foxconn’s factories in Shenzhen thrust the company into global headlines. These workers, part of a million-strong workforce, were involved in making Apple’s iPhone, the world’s premier status symbol smartphone. While the suicides are now mainly in the past, the issues raised in Dying for an iPhone remain pertinent to China’s labor situation and global manufacturing generally.

An unnamed narrator addresses her lover: “I didn’t know your name when we first met. No one introduced us. The only thing I remember is that you were picking roadside elderflowers.” The relationship between the young Chinese narrator and “you”, the elderflower picker, progresses quickly and their relationship, from living on a houseboat to exploring Australian tourist towns, is explored through the fragments of conversations that make up Guo Xiaolu’s A Lover’s Discourse.

It probably goes without saying that there will be no solution to what has come to be called “climate change” without China’s active participation. (The same holds for the United States, but that’s another matter.) In their new book China Goes Green, Judith Shapiro and Li Yifei view China’s environmental policies and practices, both domestically and internationally, as—goes the subtitle—“Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet”.