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China Pop
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As one who fundamentally believes that culture, not economics, will "save" China, Zha (a Chinese journalist who now lives in Chicago and works for the Center for Transcultural Studies) writes about how popular culture has developed in Beijing, China's cultural capital. She discusses the major individuals involved in the production of the nation's most popular soap opera, Yearning; the development of contemporary Chinese architecture; the production of such award-winning movies as Farewell My Concubine and Raise the Red Lantern; the transformation of the Ministry of Culture's China Culture Gazette; pervasive corruption in the journalistic world; the wholesale promotion of the novel The Abandoned Capital; and, from Hong Kong, the proliferation of the avante-garde via the CIM investment company. Much of what Zha discusses is supported in other recent accounts (e.g., Frank Viviano's Dispatches from the Pacific Century, LJ 4/1/93; Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's China Wakes, LJ 7/94; and Orville Schell's Mandate of Heaven, LJ 8/94). However, since her stated intention is to portray China in a "minute fashion," the result is that the book reads more like an extended gossip column than a serious analytical work. An optional purchase.-Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, Ill

In the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Chinese television launched Yearning, a 50-part soap opera celebrating values such as self-sacrifice and endurance. Chinese-American freelance journalist Zha views Yearning as the Communist Party's attempt to reunite the masses with the government. Her intriguing look at Chinese pop culture‘movies, tabloid newspapers, TV, erotic novels, etc.‘assesses a fast-growing, depoliticized commercial culture which is fostering a cosmopolitanism that is helping to pull China into the global arena. Zha discusses China's lucrative underground pornography industry, news reporting corrupted by corporate payoffs and graft, avant-garde artists bending to the dictates of the marketplace and nascent feminism in a country where, according to the author, women have the world's highest suicide rate. A scholar at Chicago's Center for Transcultural Studies, Zha, born and raised in Beijing, brings both Eastern and Western perspectives to this hopeful work. (May)

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