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Bad Elements: Chinese Rebels from Los Angeles to Beijingby Ian Buruma
Synopses & Reviews
"Strange things happen when Chinese dynasties near their end. Dams break, earthquakes hit, clouds appear in the shape of weird beasts, rain falls in odd colors, and insects infest the countryside. These are the ill omens of moral turpitude and political collapse. While greed and cynicism poison the society from within, barbarians stir restlessly at the gates. Corrupt officials, whose authority can no longer rely on the assumption of superior virtue, exercise their power with anxious and arbitrary brutality. When people, even those who live far from the centers of power, begin to sense that the Mandate of Heaven is slipping away from their corrupted rulers, rebellious spirits press their claims as the saviors of China, with promises of moral restoration and national unity. Millenarian cults and secret societies proliferate and sometimes explode in massive violence."
What does it mean to be Chinese? Few questions in history have been as fateful. Bad Elements is the result of Ian Buruma’s five years of travels throughout the Chinese-speaking world observing the varying groups competing for a right to define its answer. From the diaspora of exiles in the West, to Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, to factions within the People’s Republic itself, Buruma comes to terms with the range of dissident communities competing to shape China’s future in their own image.
A brave and illuminating reckoning with the groups fighting for the Mandate of Heaven, Bad Elements is also a profound meditation on the universal themes of national identity and political struggle.
"Ian Buruma at his best! Witty, insightful, revealing. He adds a new, broader dimension to our understanding of the struggles for China's future, showing that it stretches far beyond its borders. Refreshing and fascinating." Ryszard Kapuscinski
"Bad Elements is a marvelous guided tour of the many worlds of Chinese free-thinking. We visit frustrated refugees in New Jersey, rebels-turned-evangelists in California, gadflies in the authoritarian duchy of Singapore, long-suffering campaigners for Taiwan independence, punctilious Hong Kong democrats, stubborn Tibetans, and many more. We meet mayors and cooks, professors and streetwalkers. We go from city to town to tiny village to cyberspace. Two common threads hold the resplendent variety together. One is the reliable presence of the tour guide, Mr. Buruma, whose sharp eye, arch irony, and underlying moral seriousness provide a consistent vantage point; the other is the character of the bad elements themselves, who, despite all the differences in their contexts and concerns, display a common orneriness. After this book, it will no longer work to argue that Chinese people like to be told what to do." Perry Link, professor East Asian Studies, Princeton University
"Ian Buruma is a powerful storyteller....Bad Elements is the best book yet written on Chinese dissidents." The New York Review of Books
"[Buruma is] one of the sharpest minds writing about Asia....A brilliant examination...impressively comprehensive." The Wall Street Journal
Who speaks for China? Is it the old men of the politbureau or an activist like Wei Jingshsheng, who spent eighteen years in prison for writing a democratic manifesto? Is China's future to be found amid the boisterous sleaze of an electoral campaign in Taiwan or in the maneuvers by which ordinary residents of Beijing quietly resist the
In this enlightening and often moving book, critically acclaimed essayist Buruma conducts readers on a global tour of Chinese dissidence. Panoramic and intimate, disturbing and inspiring, "Bad Elements" is a profound meditation on the themes of national identity and political struggle.
About the Author
Ian Buruma was educated in Holland and Japan and spent many years in Asia, which he has written about in book such as God's Dust, Behind the Mask, and The Missionary and the Libertine. He is also the author of Playing the Game, The Wages of Guilt, and Anglomania. He lived in London.
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History and Social Science » Asia » China » General