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196 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Nicholas D. Kristofand Sheryl WuDunn. China Wakes: The Strugglefor the Soul ofa Rising Power. New York: New York Times Books, 1994. 500 pp. Hardcover, isbn 0-8129-2252-2. Paperback $14.00, isbn 0-679-76393-7. James and Ann Tyson. Chinese Awakenings: Life Storiesfrom the Unofficial China. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995. 327 pp. Hardcover $59.95, isbn 08133 -2472-6. Paperback $19.95, ISBN 0-8133-2473-4. Here are two husband-and-wife teams ofjournalists: Nicholas Kristofand Sheryl WuDunn ofthe New York Times, and James and Ann Tyson of the Christian Science Monitor. Same beat: China, before and after the Tiananmen Square protest movement. And two books bearing rather simüar titles: China Wakes and Chinese Awakenings. China Wakes is a well-written, though relatively standard, survey of Deng Xiaoping's China, a land characterized in equal measure by market economics and political authoritarianism. Kristofcalls fhis schizophrenic state "marketLeninism ," a catchy but inaccurate phrase that has caught on widi some commentators . ("Leninism" suggests a disciplined state in which die Communist Party enjoys strict control; diis is simply not true of China in the mid-1990s.) The authors never quite answer the question whether fhe regime's achievements justify its brutality; we are left with two opposing visions carrying equal weight. After an excellent introductory essay, the book settles on investigating familiar topics, with chapters penned alternately by each ofthe two audiors. Various personages are introduced to illustrate different aspects of Chinese life, and while these take the stage only briefly, the book still runs a little long at five hundred pages. Aside from greater efforts to protect the identity oftheir sources, an important difference from earlier efforts like Fox Butterfield's China: Alive in the Bitter Sea is Kristofand WuDunn's active presence in the text. This is a story not only ofpresent-day China but ofhow the authors came to be acquainted with it (chapter 2 traces WuDunn's return to the land ofher ancestors, for example) and oftheir life in Beijing. The result is a more engaging narrative, although some readers may prefer to be left in the dark about the authors' private lives. Chinese Awakenings is a more neutral, "objective" collection ofnine lengthy profiles: a peasant migrant, a millionaire businessman, a Shanghai intellectual (Harold Xu, also profiled in China Wakes), a union activist (Han Dongfang), a© 1997 by University dissident journalist (Zhang Weiguo), and so on. What fhey aU have in common, ofHawai iPresswe are j-qI,^ js ^1n independent spirit, characteristic ofthe new societybrought about by the post-1978 reforms. These are people who think for themselves, who have rebounded from earlier tragedies, and have seen fheir lives become better. Reviews 197 Nevertheless, as the authors point out in a chapter on clan feuds in southwestern China, this new freedom can also mean reverting back to parochial, almost tribal local traditions. Whereas the profiles in China Wakes leave the reader wanting more (even major figures such as Wei Jingsheng get only a couple ofpages), the sketches in Chinese Awakenings are rather long and filled with biographical minutiae; some common generational traits are inevitably repeated. Conspicuously absent are profiles ofindividuals disenchanted with the reforms—so-called neoconservatives or other authoritarian nationalists. The absence is surprising given that the Tysons were among the first Western journalists to write about them in a series ofarticles for the Monitor in 1990. This leads me to a second observation: in contrast to the more balanced China Wakes, Chinese Awakenings paints an overall picture ofprogress and hope in a better future. The ongoing "rush ofself-discovery and ambition" is seen as responsible for creating a "vibrant new society"; the people are finally "breaking free." This rosy picture is only pardy accurate, as Kristof and WuDunn's account makes clear. The differences between the two volumes may be due to their choice of focus: whUe the Communist state figures prominendy in China Wakes (as a persistent harasser oflocal citizens and foreign journalists alike), ChineseAwakenings concentrates on the "unofficial China." As a result of their respective perspectives , fhe two books illuminate different aspects ofthe same complex reality. Matei P. Mihalca Harvard University...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 196-197
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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