A European veteran of the Cultural Revolution deplores post-Maoist China: the intellectuals, discredited in 1965-66, are as...

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TO CHINA AND BACK

A European veteran of the Cultural Revolution deplores post-Maoist China: the intellectuals, discredited in 1965-66, are as arrogant as ever (after their purported ""rehabilitation""); the old pride in Chinese-made products has been replaced by veneration for capitalist goods; a whole generation of ""revolutionary storm troopers""--whom the author taught as teenagers in '65-'66--has been ""worn out by the struggles of a decade. . .to the point of being unable to take a stand about anything."" Bredsdorff's ideological bias is clear--and to that extent one can both learn from what he saw and question his conclusions. Returning to China in '77, he witnessed the emergence of the Gang of Four as villains--whose offenses no one at first understood--and the incipient return of the reviled Hua Guofeng to power. But his contention that the ""coup"" that followed Mao's death was a blow to ""democracy"" in China, that speech is now less free than under Mao, must be viewed with some dubiety. Much of his evidence is fragmentary and inconclusive: he maintains, for one thing, that the cadre schools to which intellectuals were sent (for as long as four years) during the Cultural Revolution were not ""prison camps,"" engages in a lengthy dialogue with one unembittered elder, and then fails to account for the non-reform of others. He is hampered, too, by his ignorance of the Chinese language: in '65-'66 he was unable even to learn what was written on the wall posters denouncing him. So ultimately he is most informative on being a foreign ""expert""--hemmed in by China's ""natural exclusiveness"" and elevated by China's ""inverted apartheid."" But both the isolation and the cushy treatment of foreigners are common knowledge by now; and to this and other relatively neutral topics--Chinese evasiveness, sensitivity to picture-taking, etc.--he brings only a more sympathetic understanding than some of his predecessors. He calls this not a chronicle of disillusion (having had, he claims, no ""illusions""); but it has that documentary value, and little more.

Pub Date: May 12, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1980

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