The First Emperor, founder of the short-lived Qin Dynasty (221-207 BCE) and even “China” writ large by some accounts, is a well-known historical figure. The excavation and subsequent global circulation of the Terracotta Warriors, crafted to guard his tomb, have given rise to a certain “Qinomania” Stories of the entombed ruler only heighten the fascination of the mass-produced and life-sized soldiers. Born into a hostage situation, the man known as Ying Zheng broke with the past, burned books, and buried scholars alive as he forged a new kind of centralized state. He survived assassination attempts and became infamously obsessed with a doomed quest for immortality. But how do we really know what we know about this world-shaking unifier of “all under heaven”? 

In May  2022, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, outlined the Biden administration’s approach to the People’s Republic of China. Blinken closed by speaking directly to the Chinese people, vowing “We’ll compete with confidence; we’ll cooperate wherever we can; we’ll contest where we must.” Between Blinken’s maxim and the actual conduct of foreign policy lie countless trade-offs, debates, and decisions. Scott Moore is familiar with those details, having lived in China before serving in the State Department’s Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs. His new book, China’s Next Act, offers guidance for how the US should decide when to cooperate and when to compete with China. 

It may come as a surprise, but probably shouldn’t, that the seemingly well-worn concepts of “losing” and “saving face” are relatively modern and their wide usages in English date from the period of 19th-century imperialism. In his new (and refreshingly brief) book On Saving Face: A Brief History of Western Appropriation, Michael Keevak claims the terms’ wide acceptance can be quite precisely traced to a publication of the last decade of the 19th century.

Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill purportedly meant to revive U.S. dominance in research and development. “We used to rank number one in the world in research and development; now we rank number nine,” Biden said at the signing ceremony. “China was number eight decades ago; now they are number two.” And a recent study from Japan’s science ministry reported that China now leads the world not just in quantity of scientific research, but in quality too.

Home is an overarching theme in May-Lee Chai’s engaging new collection, Tomorrow in Shanghai and Other Stories, as she covers ground from China to the United States to a science fiction land beyond Earth. Some stories overlap when it comes to the characters and others when it comes to places; together they comprise an interlocking array of what it means to have a home.