“If you want to make an omelet, you must be willing to break a few eggs.” Vladmir Lenin
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely..” Lord Acton
Phillip Pan, former Washington Post Beijing bureau chief has written a great book on China, entitled, “Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China.” The book profiles 11 Chinese, mostly present day, and by doing so, it very nicely provides a not very pretty snapshot on China’s political development.
Pan was in China from 2000 to 2007 and one gets the distinct impression he was working on many of these profiles the entire time. Pan clearly views the people of whom he writes as markers on where China is now and where it likely will be heading. Pan takes a decidedly pessimistic view of the party’s ability to reform from within and is overall rather negative on the idea of China’s growing economy automatically leading to a corresponding growth in the political arena.
I agree and I disagree. I too do not consider the party capable of instituting full on reform, but at the same time, I believe as China’s economy continues to grow, continuing reform is inevitable.
The Washington Post, in an article entitled, Battle Lines: Portraits of people seeking, and resisting, change in China, accurately describes the book:
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.
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Yet some big truths emerge.
Read this book for its beautifully crafted and moving profiles of 11 individuals and to garner big truths about China.
UPDATE: Richard over at Peking Duck, the best China book reviewer on the blogosphere, just came out with an absolutely glowing review.
UPDATE: 7/10/2010 — Mark’s China Blog just reviewed this book and he raved about it, saying that If you are going to pick up just one book on China, “this might be the one to read. You will not look at China the same after reading Out of Mao’s Shadow.”