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Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New Chinaby Philip P Pan
Synopses & Reviews
From an award-winning journalist for The Washington Post and one of the leading China correspondents of his generation comes an eloquent and vivid chronicle of the world's most successful authoritarian state — a nation undergoing a remarkable transformation.
Philip P. Pan's groundbreaking book takes us inside the dramatic battle for China's soul and into the lives of individuals struggling to come to terms with their nation's past — the turmoil and trauma of Mao's rule — and to take control of its future. Capitalism has brought prosperity and global respect to China, but the Communist government continues to resist the demands of its people for political freedom.
Pan, who reported in China for the Post for seven years and speaks fluent Chinese, eluded the police and succeeded in going where few Western journalists have dared.
From the rusting factories in the industrial northeast to a tabloid newsroom in the booming south, from a small-town courtroom to the plush offices of the nation's wealthiest tycoons, he tells the gripping stories of ordinary men and women fighting for political change. An elderly surgeon exposes the government's cover-up of the SARS epidemic. A filmmaker investigates the execution of a young woman during the Cultural Revolution. A blind man is jailed for leading a crusade against forced abortions carried out under the one-child policy.
The young people who filled Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989 saw their hopes for a democratic China crushed in a massacre, but Pan reveals that as older, more pragmatic adults, many continue to push for justice in different ways. They are survivors whose families endured one of the world's deadliest famines during the Great Leap Forward, whose idealism was exploited during the madness of the Cultural Revolution, and whose values have been tested by the booming economy and the rush to get rich.
"Ex-Washington Post Beijing bureau chief Pan focuses these 11 profiles on China's lonely dissidents: a filmmaker documents a Mao-era dissident who wrote a prison manifesto in her own blood; a doctor acclaimed for blowing the whistle on the SARS epidemic is arrested for writing about the Tiananmen Square massacre; an editor tests the party's tolerance for muckraking. These narratives show China's social and political tensions playing out through personal enmities, petty bribery and subtle moral compromises. Pan's stirring reportage shows that, even in China, the individual can make a difference — at a price. B&w photos. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Before she was executed in a Chinese prison in 1968, a courageous political dissident named Lin Zhao gave a tiny sailboat, folded from a cellophane candy wrapper, to her friend Zhang Yuanxun. He kept it for more than 30 years, treating it as a secret treasure. Then he passed it to Hu Jie, a documentary filmmaker, who accepted the fragile origami boat and the implicit burden it carried: the duty to... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) preserve Lin Zhao's memory. This he did obsessively, working without pay for five years to track down people who knew her and to recover her prison writings, scratched in her own blood after the authorities had denied her ink. Philip P. Pan tells the story of the origami sailboat in "Out of Mao's Shadow," his entrancing book about the struggle "for the soul of the world's most populous nation" between a "venal party-state" and "a ragtag collection of lawyers, journalists, entrepreneurs, artists, hustlers, and dreamers striving to build a more tolerant, open, and democratic China." He uses the sailboat, in a quietly moving way, to help readers feel the enduring chill of Mao's ideological twists and turns, particularly the Hundred Flowers Movement of 1957, when intellectuals such as Lin Zhao were encouraged to criticize the Communist Party, then cruelly punished for doing so. Part of the book's poignancy is that Pan has joined the chain of transmission: He earned the documentary filmmaker's trust and promised to tell his story, just as the filmmaker had earned Zhang Yuanxun's trust and promised to preserve Lin Zhao's legacy of pain and endurance. "Out of Mao's Shadow" is a work of reporting, but it is also a work of conscience. From 2001 to 2007, Pan was The Washington Post's bureau chief in Beijing. The 10 or so intersecting stories he tells here are gritty and real. This is not a big-theme book about the "true" China but a concrete, closely observed encounter with particular people, places and events. He puts the reader on a stool in the small shop of laid-off steel worker Yao Fuxin as Yao and some colleagues plot a doomed demonstration against corrupt local officials in the rust-belt city of Liaoyang. We run through cornfields with blind activist Chen Guangcheng as he escapes from government thugs in his home village, hoping to carry a petition for justice all the way to Beijing. Other protagonists include a land developer, an army doctor, a local party secretary, a crusading editor and a passel of feuding "rights protection" lawyers (as they call themselves). Pan seems to have been all over each incident, watching before, during and after it happened, getting long interviews with participants who initially did not want to talk, copying quotes from secret documents, hiding notes from a trial in his socks. Yet some big truths emerge. Local government omnipotence and corruption are a toxic combination, personified in Pan's book by Zhang Xide, the party secretary of Linquan County. He presided over the violent repression of a peasant revolt against coercive birth-control methods and illegal taxes. And what is wonderfully revealing about today's China is that he was proud of his achievement! When a pair of crusading journalists named Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao exposed his actions, he sued them for defamation. (Their book, "Will the Boat Sink the Water?," was published in English by PublicAffairs in 2006.) A local judge allowed something like a real trial to take place, enabling a rights protection lawyer named Pu Zhiqiang — another vivid character — to humiliate Zhang and his colleagues on cross-examination because of their eagerness to brag about their use of harsh methods. When the proceedings got out of control in this way, the local party authorities, who ultimately supervise all court decisions, disposed of the embarrassment by having the court issue no judgment. Zhang retired on full pension, while Chen and Wu's book remains banned. Another theme is the alliance of the party with private entrepreneurs, represented by a richly loathsome female property developer named Chen Lihua. She specializes in acquiring land in Beijing through cronyism and forcibly evicting tenants with police assistance. Pan reports her rags to riches story, visits her lavish office and notices nine separate photos, one of her with each member of the party's top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee. Chen, too, is proud of her achievements and especially of knowing how to work the system; she reflexively offers Pan a bribe. In contrast, Pan's heroes are fighting against the system that he calls the "largest and perhaps most successful experiment in authoritarianism in the world." That they can do so without being executed is a sign of how far China has emerged from Mao's shadow. But it is also a tribute to their courage and cunning, because, as Pan notes, the machinery of repression is "cynical, stable, and nimble." The documentary filmmaker loses his job, consumes his savings and has his films banned. The crusading newspaper editor spends a short time in jail and ends up sidelined, writing for a sports magazine. The blind activist is kidnapped, beaten and sentenced to a four-and-a-half-year prison term. Most of these reformers and dreamers are driven by a combination of outrage and hope: outrage over the system's inhumanity and hope because it is changing. The courts, investigative journalists, independent lawyers and access for foreign journalists are all developments of the past 30 years. At the same time, Pan's stories substantiate his judgment that the party apparatus has come "to resemble an organized crime network." The system rewards corrupt, repressive local officials because they get results — economic growth, targeted levels of population growth and social order. The party, so far, has not given officials much incentive to pay attention to environmental health, urban preservation or social justice. For now, the "struggle for China's soul" remains sadly one-sided. Andrew J. Nathan teaches political science at Columbia University. He is co-editor of "How East Asians View Democracy," which will be published in August. Reviewed by Andrew J. Nathan, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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A moving story of a nation in transition, this work offers a startling perspective on China and its remarkable transformation, challenging conventional wisdom about the political apathy of the Chinese people and the notion that prosperity leads automatically to freedom.
About the Author
Philip P. Pan is a foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and the newspaper's former Beijing bureau chief. During his tour in China from 2000 to 2007 he won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in international reporting, the Overseas Press Club's Bob Considine Award for best newspaper interpretation of international affairs, and the Asia Society's Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Journalism on Asia. He is a graduate of Harvard College and studied Chinese at Peking University. He lives with his wife and son in New York and will begin a new assignment for the Post in Moscow in 2008.
Table of Contents
1. The Public Funeral
2. Searching for Lin Zhao's Soul
3. Blood and Love
4. The Cemetery
NO BETTER THAN THIEVES
5. Arise, Slaves, Arise!
6. The Rich Lady
7. The Party Boss
8. The Honest Doctor
9. The Newspaperman
10. The People's Trial
11. Blind Justice
Note on Sources
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