by Linda Jakobson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 14, 1998
A marvelous introduction to the contradictions and conflicts, the promise and problems that are China today. Jakobson, a correspondent for Finland's leading newsweekly, has spent well over a decade in China. She arrived before the Tiananmen massacre put an end to China's nascent democracy movement and was still there when China's patriarch and architect of the country's economic miracle, Deng Xiaoping, finally died. A decade of upheaval, of economic and social change no one, especially not the Chinese themselves, can make sense of. To her credit, Jakobson doesn't try. Rather, she presents a series of personal stories--of friends and acquaintances, strangers and officials--that illuminate the past decade without drawing final conclusions. She has a journalist's eye for details that mean much and the scholar's discipline to put these details into historical context: all is confusion. Over the past decade, China has developed economically at a remarkable pace, yet tensions abound. The more prosperous south chafes at the central controls of the party and government. Millionaires are not uncommon in the cities, yet in the countryside a population the size of France's fights against starvation. Millions of young women work in sweatshop conditions yet make far more money than they would ever earn as peasants. Prosperity grows, but so do uncertainty, class divisions and resentment, crime. Artists rail against their lack of cultural freedom yet turn a deaf ear when the subject turns to Tibet and its fight to retain its identity. Everyone, it seems, wants to make money, but few can find true meaning in their personal lives and in the life of the nation. Such themes are not new, but Jakobson's gift for storytelling opens them up to the reader in unique and forceful ways. Not for experts perhaps, but for those who wish to simply learn about China, there is no better book around today.
Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1998
Page Count: 336
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998
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