Paperback / softback
February 26, 2014
26 illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
1.1 Pounds (US)
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v2.1 Reference
September 14, 2015
26 illus.
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6.00 Inches (US)
1.42 Pounds (US)
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v2.1 Reference

China Watcher

Confessions of a Peking Tom

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.

About the Author

Richard Baum was distinguished professor of political science at UCLA and director emeritus of the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies.


"Richard Baum's China Watcher offers us a distinctive view into China and the field of China watching . . . Many in the profession will find his journey familiar, yet even professionals will find the book engaging because he so openly and candidly shines a light on what it has meant to be a China hand over the past 40 years."—Scott Kennedy, Pacific Affairs, June 2011

"This engaging, readable volume is a refreshing contrast to the tomes most China scholars produce."—Choice

"In his vivacious memoir China Watcher, leading American Sinologist Richard Baum recalls a time when just getting your hands on an internal Party document was enough to launch a career…."—The New York Review of Books

"One thing that makes this book valuable is that is shows how, over the course of Baum's career, not only has China itself changed profoundly but so have the methods scholars use to make sense of it."—Huffington Post

"What Baum does excellently in China Watcher is supply a wide-angle lens treatment to the major events of the past four decades, the sort of things only a person who was actually on the ground at the time can write about credibly. Imagine getting the fly-on-the-wall play-by-play half-an-hour before the recording of the Zapruder film, and you'll readily realize what I mean."—

"Being a smart-aleck got him in trouble in academic circles at times, but it has served his memoir well. It is rare to find a serious scholar who is able to write about his life's work with such levity. We witness not just his knowledge (and ours) about China grow, but also watch him coming of age."—

"One suspects that many a stodgy China hand will publicly distain Baum's candid, colourful— often hilarious— retrospective. But they will clandestinely read this expose under the covers."—South China Morning Post

"Baum charts the breathtaking changes of the past decades."—Financial Times

"China Watcher offers the rare opportunity to learn this history as author Richard Baum did— from the front row…. It is rare to find a serious scholar who is able to write about his life's work with such levity. We witness not just his knowledge (and our) about China grow, but also watch him coming of age…. His measured optimism for the country and its relations with the rest of the world are all the more convincing for his exciting narrative about a long career of China watching."—Zócalo Public Square

"A superb, engaging memoir."—Gordon G. Chang, The Wall Street Journal Asia

"In this fine memoir professor Richard Baum reminds us of many events, truths, themes and insanities over his four decades of visiting, studying and writing about China as an exceptionally well-traveled academic. He writes nicely, though not so slickly that you are made to wonder why he isn't struggling harder to understand China (he believes understanding China is a terrifying constant struggle, even for so-called experts), and he thinks deeply, though without the unnecessary density common to academic studies that have very little to say and— tragically— a whole of space in which to say it….the book is a wonderful way to get a handle on the current situation between China and the United States without losing your mind or your composure, or falling asleep."—Tom Plate, syndicated columnist


"For China watchers like myself, who lived through the period which Baum writes about, the book offers an excellent review of significant events and Baum's interpretation of them."—China Review International, China Review International

"This book will resonate with anyone whose career-shaping fascination with mainland China originated in the decades before the policies of 'reform' and opening'… For readers whose interest in China came later…China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom lays the groundwork for appreciation of the challenges of Western China-watching since the Communist Revolution… for students or casual readers who may be new to China studies, this book supplies a readable overview of major developments in the PRC since the rapprochement in US-China relations ushered in by ping-pong diplomacy and the 1972 Nixon visit."—The China Quarterly, The China Quarterly

"Rick Baum has been both a leading scholar and a scholarly leader in the field of contemporary Chinese politics since the 1960s. This book provides intensely personal portraits of the American scholarly community and of a changing China, from the Cultural Revolution right up until now. I read it with great enthusiasm and enormous pleasure. It's the kind of book that's hard to put down."—Harry Harding, University of Virginia

"The special charm of China Watcher is the way Baum draws the reader into a world of musty archives and political rivalries, both grand and petty, to give us insights into the political, social, and economic transformation of China. Along the way we are treated to cameos from a wide range of actors, some of whom— like George H. W. Bush and Chalmers Johnson— go on to great notoriety. I literally had trouble putting the book down."—Michael L. Ross, UCLA

"Baum is one of the most insightful China watchers around and he provides a first—hand overview of developments in China interwoven with the nature and significance of China watching. He blends his own personal journal with the larger events, displaying liveliness and analysis."—Thomas Gold, University of California, Berkeley

"Simply wonderful! I read it right through."—Andrew Walder, Stanford University

"Both informative and humorous, this book is well—written, amusing, and provides a comprehensive view of the field of modern Chinese studies."—Merle Goldman, Harvard University and Boston University

"Written with flair, Baum’s memoir takes readers through a turbulent half century of China—watching and U.S.—China relations, offering a unique personal perspective on unusual Sino—American encounters. Baum takes us through the sometimes backbiting halls of Sinological academia to the Tiananmen uprising in Beijing, the Tibetan Plateau, the back streets of Hong Kong, the White House, and other locales. An intriguing and often humorous read."—David Shambaugh, George Washington University and the Brookings Institution

"An enthralling memoir, and a fascinating snapshot of recent China—U.S. relations, from the doyen of modern China watchers."—Rob Giffordformer NPR Beijing correspondent and, author of China Road

"Richard Baum has given us a rare and intimate gift: a wonderfully funny and revealing chronicle of adventure, as experienced by one of the greatest China watchers of our time. Baum’s odyssey through four decades of China’s rise reminds us that true friendship to China requires not only patience, but honesty. As the Chinese expression puts it, he has always dared to step off his horse to examine the flowers up—close."—Evan Osnos, China correspondent for The New Yorker

"Richard Baum has been watching China for decades with a combination of bemusement, shock, awe, and smarts, and he has instructed generations of China watchers. Now he’s finally shared the secrets of tea—leaf reading and produced a wonderful book that should be must—reading for anyone interested in where China has come from and where it’s going."—John Pomfret, author of Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China

"China Watcher is a fascinating, vivid, and personally honest book that is revealing about China itself and the efforts of outsiders to make sense of China’s policies and prospects. This book held my interest all the way through."—James Fallowsnational correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and, author of Postcards from Tomorrow Square

"An insightful and entertaining account of what 'China watching' is really like, from one of the most distinguished scholars in the field. Rick Baum combines a compelling tale of his own personal journey through China's recent tumultuous history with fascinating portraits not only of many of its key figures, but of the equally colorful cast of Western academics, diplomats, journalists, and intelligence operatives, who, like Baum, have long struggled to make sense of this huge and often mystifying nation. An important slice of the China story you're unlikely to find anywhere else."—Mike Chinoy, USC U.S.—China Institute, former CNN Beijing bureau chief

University of Washington Press

9780295992532 : china-watcher-baum
Paperback / softback
336 Pages
$20.00 USD
9780295998862 : china-watcher-baum
336 Pages
$99.00 USD

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