Cheng Li, "Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping U.S.-China Engagement" (Brookings Institution Press, 2021)


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In mid-November, Washington and Beijing mutually agreed to start granting journalist visas again, putting an end to months of reciprocal visa rejections and denials. A perhaps minor, yet still important, thawing among grander narratives of decoupling and worsening relations between the two countries.

Cheng Li’s Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping U.S.-China Engagement (Brookings, 2021) plots out a new way to understand the U.S.-China relationship. Cheng Li’s book attempts to show the importance of the city of Shanghai to China’s economic and political development, and studies its population to show the continued value of engagement between Americans and Chinese. Readers can find an excerpt from Middle Class Shanghai on the Brookings website: Shanghai’s dynamic art scene.

Cheng Li is the director of the John L. Thornton China Center and a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. He is also a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

We’re joined in this interview by Brian Wong. Brian is a Co-Founder of the Oxford Political Review, a columnist with the Hong Kong Economic Journal and a contributor to the Neican newsletter.

The three of us talk about the city of Shanghai, its importance to China, and why looking at US-China relations through the prism of a single city might be a better way to understand the international system.

You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Middle Class Shanghai. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.

Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.

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