CHINA TODAY by Donald Shanor


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 An engrossing report on China in transition. The Shanors--Donald (Behind the Lines: The Private War Against Soviet Censorship, 1985, etc.), a former director of the international division of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and wife Constance--lived in China during the 198485 academic year and returned for follow-up reports in 1987 and 1993. Their observations and interviews with dozens of citizens offer a window into the nation after a decade and a half of Deng Xiaoping's market reforms. The land they encounter, while bursting free of the collectivization policies that stifled individual initiative and led to catastrophic famine under Mao Tse-tung, still chafes at corrupt party bureaucrats and yearns for the comparatively affluent lifestyle perceived in satellite transmissions from the West and in closer contacts with nearby Hong Kong and Taiwan. Moreover, as welcome as the market reforms are, they have created more problems as millions of workers, allowed greater freedom of movement, have left depressed rural areas and migrated to the cities, severely straining social services and the housing market. Even more problematic is the lack of political freedom. Dissent, early in Deng's regime, was only selectively allowed to expose the misdeeds of the Maoist regime. Today, nearly six years after Tiananmen Square, the restraints are even tighter. Although the Shanors believe China will not catch up to the West without a corresponding opening in its political system, they caution that the US will have to be patient, lest it ignite annoyance in a country that recalls a hypocritical Western presence in the 19th century. They foresee for China a path that resembles Taiwan's: a market-driven route marked by a relaxation of dictatorial controls over a few generations. They fail to consider, however, that this transition may be hastened with the passing of the current octogenarian- dominated hierarchy. A vivid, insightful picture of a nation still perched, as it has been throughout this century, on the edge of volcanic change.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-11759-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995