Jan Wong, a Canadian of Chinese descent, went to China as a starry-eyed Maoist in 1972 at the height of the Cultural Revolution. A true believerand one of only two Westerners permitted to enroll at Beijing Universityher education included wielding a pneumatic drill at the Number One Machine Tool Factory. In the name of the Revolution, she renounced rock & roll, hauled pig manure in the paddy fields, and turned in a fellow student who sought her help in getting to the United States. She also met and married the only American draft dodger from the Vietnam War to seek asylum in China.
Red China Blues is Wong's startlingand ironicmemoir of her rocky six-year romance with Maoism (which crumbled as she became aware of the harsh realities of Chinese communism); her dramatic firsthand account of the devastating Tiananmen Square uprising; and her engaging portrait of the individuals and events she covered as a correspondent in China during the tumultuous era of capitalist reform under Deng Xiaoping. In a frank, captivating, deeply personal narrative she relates the horrors that led to her disillusionment with the "worker's paradise." And through the stories of the peoplean unhappy young woman who was sold into marriage, China's most famous dissident, a doctor who lengthens penisesWong reveals long-hidden dimensions of the world's most populous nation.
In setting out to show readers in the Western world what life is like in China, and why we should care, she reacquaints herself with the old friendsand enemies of her radical past, and comes to terms with the legacy of her ancestral homeland.
This superb memoir is like no other account of life in China under both Mao and Deng. Wong is a Canadian ethnic Chinese who, in 1972, at the height of the cultural revolution, was one of the first undergraduate foreigners permitted to study at Beijing University. Filled with youthful enthusiasms for Mao's revolution, she was an oddity: a Westerner who embraced Maoism, appeared to be Chinese and wished to be treated as one, although she didn't speak the language. She set herself to become fluent, refused special consideration, shared her fellow-students rations and housing, their required stints in industry and agriculture and earnestly tried to embrace the Little Red Book. Although Wong felt it her duty to turn in a fellow student who asked for help to emigrate to the West, she could not repress continual shock at conditions of life, and by the time she was nearly expelled from China for an innocent friendship with a "foreigner," much of her enthusiasm, which lasted six years, had eroded. In 1988, returning as a reporter for the Toronto Globe Mail, she was shocked once again, this time by the rapid transformations of the society under Deng's exhortation: "to be rich is glorious." Her account is informed by her special background, a cold eye, a detail. Her description of the events at Tiananmen Square, which occurred on her watch, is, like the rest of the book, unique, powerful and moving. (May)