TO GET RICH IS GLORIOUS: China in the Eighties by Orville Schell
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TO GET RICH IS GLORIOUS: China in the Eighties

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There is no keener, more sensitive record of China's recent turnabout than Schell's successive impressions--from In the People's Republic (1977) to ""Watch Out for the Foreign Guests!"" (1980) to the present work, startlingly titled after a Communist Party slogan. Schell has other such amazements to offer. Some fly in the face of socialist teaching--like pedicabs, ""one human being straining on a bicycle to haul another."" Some suggest a chilling historical lapse--like a glossy full-page ad for St. Laurent's Opium perfume. The present situation is plainly put: ""It has been decided that as long as the productive forces of the nation are generally moving forward, growing discrepancies between rich and poor, and even the development of an incipient bourgeoisie, are an acceptable price to pay."" Schell and other Western commentators have reservations: in the countryside, peasant ""incentive"" means abandonment of collective waterworks and canal projects; in the towns, more beggars and vagrants are beginning to be seen. And there has been rampant crime, brutishly suppressed. Schell decries the changes only insofar as the good of the old system is jettisoned along with the bad (""In many areas of China, Maoist collectivization was not a debacle""), and to the extent that no divergence from the new line is permitted either. (Read a headline: ""PARTY BACKS BOLD MANAGER ACCUSED OF GOING CAPITALIST."") Schell is a descriptive writer of easy charm, and still the wondering, pondering observer who first encountered Mao's China in 1975. He goes to the much-heralded, state-owned Fragrant Hill Hotel and finds it decrepit and forlorn after less than two years. ""I was reminded of how reliant on the outside world's pool of managerial skills and technology China's few pockets of modernization actually were."" Yet at the sleek Western-owned and operated Great Wall Hotel, he is mesmerized by ""conflicting sensations."" The outcome is unperceivable (though Schell has his hunches)--the report is fluid and prickling.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1984
Publisher: Pantheon