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The Problem of China

Bertrand Russell

Book Overview: 

In 1920-21 Bertrand Russell lived and taught in Peking (Beijing), publishing this book on his return to England. In 1920 he had visited Bolshevik Russia, talked to Lenin, and was unimpressed by what he had seen. China, however, was another matter. Like many travelers, he often saw what he wanted to see, and after Europe’s Great War, he found many signs of hope in China. In that country, he was welcomed by the young intellectuals who saw him as a representative of modern and scientific thought. They, however, were trying to cast off much of the old tradition that they thought held China back, and they were often opposed to Russell’s urging that they hold on to much of their own tradition, which he saw as superior to that of Europe, particularly after the terrible slaughter of 1914-18 on the continent. His work is very much a product of its time, and today, almost a century later, many are still trying to explain China -- a very different China from Russell's -- to an outside world.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Powers which they show no inclination to neglect. The way in which the situation is utilized may be illustrated by three telegrams in The Times which appeared during January of this year.

On January 14, 1922, The Times published the following in a telegram from its Peking correspondent:

It is curious to reflect that this country (China) could be rendered completely solvent and the Government provided with a substantial income almost by a stroke of the foreigner's pen, while without that stroke there must be bankruptcy, pure and simple. Despite constant civil war and political chaos, the Customs revenue consistently grows, and last year exceeded all records by £1,000,000. The increased duties sanctioned by the Washington Conference will provide sufficient revenue to liquidate the whole foreign and domestic floating debt in a very few years, leaving the splendid salt surplus unencumbered for the Gove. . . Read More

Community Reviews

It's interesting to read about someone's views before they happen and then know how their recommendations (opinions) were played out in real history. This book opened my eyes to the history of not just the Chinese and China, but also to Japan and the Japanese. Mr. Russell's opinions were strong on h

آثار راسل شاید مصداقی از این واقعیت باشند که تار و پود ذهنی که با ریاضیات و فلسفه پرورانده‌شده، به نظم عمیقی آمیخته می‌شود که می‌تواند متونی دقیق و درخور توجه (فارغ از اشتباه و درست‌بودن نتایج و فرض‌‌ها) در اختیار مخاطبان خود قرار دهد. نوشتار راسل به‌موازات و پا‌به‌پای استدلال‌هایش پیش می‌رود؛ عاری

Bertrand Russell's descriptions of China, a summary of the history and culture of China and the context in which it has existed in the world, is clear and truly witty Written in the early 1920s as it was transitioning away from the traditional fractured ruling mechanisms with a loose allegiance to t

As a Chinese living abroad, I find Bertrand’s insights soothing, edifying and motivational. Still amazed by how much he learnt from just one year of stay.

I think this is a valuable book. In this book, which wrote on 1922, China was in unstable politico-social world. Noteworthy, Russell laid a firmly believe in China in account for her lively millennial civilization. Russell goes to-and-fro reflecting the gist of Western, Chinese and also Japanese phi

Has surprising relevance in today's global climate. Bertrand Russell, a thinker beyond his time, proves himself once again. A must read for anyone looking to understand a historical perspective and how Mr. Russell's China compares to today's rising Dragon.

Shockingly good considering how little knowledge was available to Russell at the time. It’s quite depressing to read the last lines of this book and realize that most of Russell’s worst fears have come to pass since 1949. China’s military and economic strength, built on the back of imported techniqu

The problems facing China in the early 1920’s were many and complex, and philosopher Bertrand Russell drew upon a year-long visit to the country to set forth his impressions regarding those problems and their possible solutions. Reading Russell’s The Problem of China, almost exactly 100 years after


I see this book roughly as three parts:
(1) reviewing the (i) ancient history, (ii) politics [as of 1922] of China and Japan [Japan... owing to the usefulness as a reference],
(2) discusses the general character of the Chinese as a civilization and human being,
(3) the future of China


Russell is obviously biased by his own Western roots when writing this book and the prejudices of Anglo-American culture at that time. That being said, Russell was also quite socialistic in his views to my understanding, and although he makes many quite culturally prejudiced statements, he still may

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