There are two very different ways of retracing China’s tumultuous years before Mao, when the disintegration of the foreign Qing dynasty opened the doors to both wondrous and disastrous possibilities, for individuals and their families, and for the Chinese world as a whole: Rowan Callick in The Australian
The more optimistic options were of course slammed shut by Mao Zedong’s three disastrous decades, from which the country still has not fully recovered. But individuals could make a difference even within such a teeming stage.
Craig Collie’s book The Reporter and the Warlords focuses on a remarkable Australian, William Henry Donald. A case might be made that he had more influence over more lives than any other Australian since Federation. Donald’s story is painted within a massive canvas, with a vast supporting cast of colourful players.
Canton Elegy, in comparison, is a charming miniature – preoccupied with Stephen Jin-Nom Lee’s own family, with their journey through China’s dangerous, often war-torn landscape, to eventual haven in California.