Matthias Messmer and Hsin-Mei Chuang have written a book that is as enthralling as it is important. Most books about the rise of China tend to focus on the major cities of the eastern coast. Messmer and Chuang invite the reader to explore all of China's borderlands--not only her complex coastline and the contested waters between her and her maritime neighbors, but also her land border. From the geopolitical hotspot that is the Korean frontier, along the Russian-Chinese faultline, through Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet, the reader is treated to a marvelous combination of history, travel writing and gripping photography. Most of this was terra incognita to me. China at its Limits takes you there. It is more than just a book; it is an exploration of forgotten places. When they are suddenly in the news, as some of them surely will be soon, you will be thankful that you read it. -- Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Author of War of the World and Civilization.
Photograph: Tom Barnes
Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
Chuang and Messmer have used photographs evocatively to present the history of the borders between China and her neighbours. Both China and her neighbours will be forced to take stock of the past and search for a way to deal with China’s rising global influence. I believe these photographs and the accompanying text will make a definitive contribution to shaping the dialogue that will come. -- Liu Heung Shing, Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer and the founder of Shanghai Center of Photography.
A very timely and interesting book which will both help and provoke much discussion. [The book] is beautifully done. -- Lord Chris Patten, Last British Governor of Hong Kong and Author of East and West.
A richly illustrated travelogue that retells the historical drama of China’s border relations and is both informed by historical sources and conversant with contemporary political controversies. -- Elizabeth A. Wishnick, Professor of Political Science, Montclair State University, and Senior Research Scholar, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University.
A marvelous, well-written, thoughtful and knowledgeable combination of history and personal observations of China's borderlands enhanced by photographs. This book offers much to be learned--even by those of us who think we know China. -- Warren I. Cohen, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Senior Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and author of America’s Response to China.
Hindustan Times: Superbly produced volume that combines history, photography, culture and travel writing, reportage, and political analysis
A visual feast, this 415-page tome escapes strict categorization: Is it an art book? Is it a work of political history or foreign policy? Is it a travelogue? It is all of these? Whatever label you choose, this is a rewarding read that gives a clear sense of China and its national character.... (read more)
With evocative photos, thoughtful travel musings and manageable doses of past and recent political history, ‘China at its Limits’ is an aesthetically-pleasing and intriguing look at China’s relations with its neighbors that carries more of a personal touch than one might expect for such a topic... creating a unique product that is... fascinating to read... China at its Limits is a rare, comprehensive picture of China’s peripheries that will provide a fuller understanding of the rise of China, a pressing topic that anyone with an interest in the region should brush up on, not to mention that the authors have put great effort into making it also an entertaining read... (read more)
China at its Limits contains over 400 pages packed with striking images taken over five years and 50,000 kilometres of travelling China’s remote border regions... Usually unstaged, and full of cool, muted tones, Messmer’s images perfectly capture the unhurried, traditional ways of life that still exist on the nation’s peripheries, but also the ways a rising China is encroaching more and more every day... (read more)
To some observers, there are seemingly no limits to China’s rise as a superpower. There are, in our geopolitical world, physical ones, and even those may not be enough to contain China’s influence with its neighbours. In China at its Limits: An Empire’s Rise Beyond its Borders (Kerber), a new coffee-table-worthy volume by authors Matthias Messmer and Hsin-Mei Chuang, the country’s border regions are examined in a rich collection of essays and photographs.... (read more)
Matthias Messmer und Hsin-Mei Chuang haben die Ränder des chinesischen Reiches bereist und analysieren in einem aussergewöhnlichen Text-Bild-Band die Entwicklung der Macht im Spiegel seiner Grenzlande... sine ira et studio und mit einem Blick auf «die da unten», der Welten öffnet. Es ist ein Reiseband, der durch Schönheit und Skepsis besticht. Auch dank den Fotos von Matthias Messmer, welche die Kunst kritischer Schärfe und empathischer Einfühlung vereinen... (read more)
Trotz der großen Bandbreite an Kulturen und Ländern ist der rote Faden, der durch den Text fließt, die Rolle der Geschichte - sowohl persönlich als auch politisch - in den breiteren politischen Auseinandersetzungen zwischen Nation und internationalen Beziehungen... Hier wird die Sicht der vielen Zivilisationen und Formationen, die Chinas Grenzen säumen und sich deren Imperialismus widersetzen, erzählt und durch Bilder hochwertig transportiert.... (read more)
中國的「一帶一路」剛提出時聲勢浩大，如今在國際上已遭到許多批判質疑。兩名研究者在過去5年間走訪中國周邊的邊境城市已預見這一點，當地民眾對於與中國合作普遍沒有好感。孟牧軒和莊新眉認為「我們實地的感受是，中國的鄰國正普遍以恐懼感或擔憂看待這個大國的崛起。如果一帶一路是建立在這樣不平衡的基礎上，而中國目前顯然還沒有贏得鄰國對它能言行一致的信任，那麼一帶一路要可持續發展，前提就先必須解決這些挑戰。」... (read more)
來自台灣的作家莊新眉和來自瑞士的作家孟牧軒(Matthias Messmer)，十多年來在中國土地、邊疆遊歷和觀察，又歷盡五年集結300多張照片和幾十張歷史圖片資料集結成書「China at its Limits: An Empire's Rise Beyond its Borders」，展示中國邊疆地帶的生活狀態，從不同角度看中國崛起。中國成為超級大國已不是夢想，中國的14個鄰國和海上邊界是重返國際社會的最直接地域。作者認為，中國的龐大與崛起，和清朝年間征服新疆、蒙古、西藏領土脫不了關係，今天的中國就是建立在這個歷史上的地理基礎而強大的，但國際上研究關於中國崛起的焦點仍放在沿海一帶和大城市，少有人關注到邊疆長期吃力不討好的角色。... (read more)
the book’s images... capture the dialectical tensions of Chinese history. Some do so through careful observation: ...a Uighur man and a woman in traditional headgear posed by the edge of a small lake in Kashgar; a ferris wheel and partially built apartment blocks in the distance hinting at the urban development that has proven so contentious in the city. These images capture what Walter Benjamin, in his “Brief History of Photography,” terms the “optical unconscious”: the camera’s ability to defamiliarize the familiar, to reveal histories hidden in the everyday that we have always known, and yet somehow forgotten. But other images in the volume do this more self-consciously. Dispersed throughout the collection are a number of palimpsests... at their best they are eerily evocative... It is at moments like this that Messmer and Chuang realize their desire to locate echoes of history in the present.