The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 by Robert Bickers
as reviewed this week by P.D. Smith in The Guardian
as discussed (in an interview with the author) by Jeffrey Wasserstrom in The China Beat
and as reviewed by Chris Patten in The Financial Times
Robert Bickers' books are always really well researched and a pleasure to read ... as are the websites he develops - Visualising China is a stunning collection of photographs of China, 1850-1950.
By the way, I know that this is not fiction, but he's such a good writer and he knows his stuff. And the historical photos are a brilliant resource for translators - for example, if you ever need to know what Bubbling Well Road looked like in 1919 you can find it on the website and on the blog.