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Red China Blues
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About the Author

Jan Wong was the Beijing correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail from 1988 to 1994. She is a graduate of McGill University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is the recipient of the George Polk Award, and other honors for her reporting. Wong has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among many other publications in the United States and abroad. She lives in Toronto.

Reviews

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)

"A marvellous book by one of Canada's best-ever foreign correspondents at the top of her form." - The Gazette (Montreal)

"Totally captivating. A wonderful memoir." - The Globe and Mail "A lovely read. One can only hope this book is the first of many." - The Financial Post "A must-read for all China watchers." - The Edmonton Journal "A splendid memoir: funny, self-mocking, biting and perceptive." - The Washington Post

" `Tis better to have believed and lost than never to have believed at all." Concluding her memoir with a paraphrase from Tennyson,Wong vividly describes her 12-year experience in China. At first, as a confused teenager coming of age amid the tumultuous late Sixties and early Seventies in Canada, she became a devoted Maoist, believing China to be "Paradise." She studied and worked in China for six years as an ordinary citizen, going through the Cultural Revolution and the period of the "Gang of Four." Later, as a reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail, she spent another six years in China, witnessing the Tiananmen massacre, interviewing important dissidents such as Wei Jingsheng and Ren Wanding, and reporting on issues such as birth control and peasant riots in rural areas. The "insider" status gives her account a unique touch that set hers apart from numerous other "journalistic" writings about China. She is describing the people she knows and the events she experienced. Highly recommended.-Mark Meng, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, N.Y.

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