"China" divides naturally into two phases: the evolution of traditional Chinese civilization in relative isolation over three thousand years, and the upheavals and transformation of that civilization in recent times, partly in response to contact with the modern western world. "China: tradition and transformation" is essential reading for all historians of China and for anyone wishing to understand modern China. The authors have worked together as part of a remarkable team at Harvard University. Edwin O. Reischauer was US Ambassador to Japan and John K. Fairbank is Director of Harvard's East Asian Research Centre.
This has long been a benchmark volume on the history of classic China. It is now out of date for most recent developments, so don't count on it giving you up to date info on post-Mao China, or even post-WWII Cina.
But if you are looking for a well written, thoroughly researched, pleasant to read compendium of classic Chinese history in only 500 pages, this is it.
The book is made even more attractive by lots of maps, photographs, drawings and reproduction of art.