This audacious and illuminating memoir by Richard Baum, a senior China scholar and sometime policy advisor, reflects on forty years of learning about and interacting with the People's Republic of China, from the height of Maoism during the author's UC Berkeley student days in the volatile 1960s through globalization. Anecdotes from Baum's professional life illustrate the alternately peculiar, frustrating, fascinating, and risky activity of China watching - the process by which outsiders gather and decipher official and unofficial information to figure out what's really going on behind China's veil of political secrecy and propaganda. Baum writes entertainingly, telling his narrative with witty stories about people, places, and eras.
China Watcher will appeal to scholars and followers of international events who lived through the era of profound political and academic change described in the book, as well as to younger, post-Mao generations, who will enjoy its descriptions of the personalities and political forces that shaped the modern field of China studies. 26 illus.