A forceful reminder that only by dealing with its own past truthfully will China shape a decent future for coming...



NPR's veteran China correspondent Lim shows how the 1989 massacre of student human rights protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square continues to shape the country today.

The author expertly traces how the regime’s initial success in “enforcing amnesia and whitewashing its own history” is beginning to unravel. Ironically, recruits to the press and security institutions lack the detailed knowledge required to fully maintain its censorship and surveillance. Still, each June 4, umbrella-toting men take up position at the scene of the blood bath, and censors of weibo (China's Twitter equivalent) search for keywords like “today,” “tomorrow” and “sensitive word.” Lim has mainly reconstructed the events leading to the massacre from the accounts of former student leaders, representatives of the organization of mothers of students killed and former party leaders, among others. The author contends that China's subsequent economic rise has been built on a cultural and political reorganization adopted since the tragedy. She details how campaigns of repression conducted under the slogans of “the era of stability maintenance,” and reinforced by a nationalist rewriting of the country's history, have provided a political smokescreen for the emergence of large-scale corruption. Recounting her interviews, Lim ridicules a society in which becoming “a corrupt official” has become a legitimate ambition. The author’s interviewees, many of them under visible surveillance, show how this has worked. Some raise questions about the events—e.g., whether the student movement was unique or part of a deeper internal struggle within the communist leadership—and wonder how the massacre could have been avoided. Others reflect on the spread of a crude materialism. Wu'er Kaixi, who participated in the events as a dissident, remains absolutely convinced that “it's the government's responsibility.”

A forceful reminder that only by dealing with its own past truthfully will China shape a decent future for coming generations.

Pub Date: June 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-19-934770-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?