MANDATE OF HEAVEN by Orville Schell


A New Generation of Entrepreneurs, Dissidents, Bohemians, and Technocrats Lays Claim to China's Future
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 The latest in a splendid series by Schell (Discos and Democracy, 1988, etc.), extending over 20 years and tracking momentous changes in the world's most populous country. Beginning almost where he left off in his last book, Schell describes the events at Tiananmen Square and their aftermath. The square has long been both a symbol of the power of successive regimes as well as a traditional site at which dissent was expressed. The demonstrations, which extended far beyond a rarefied group of students, journalists, and intellectuals, soon began to involve the urban proletariat, the very vanguard of the revolution. Deng Xiaoping, having crushed their dissent with great brutality, concluded that only economic development would save the regime. Deng is the latest in the line of Chinese reformers who have believed that China could borrow the technology and managerial methods of the West without affecting Chinese culture and values. For the moment, says Schell, the middle class has struck a Faustian bargain with the Communist Party, forgoing political confrontation while economic liberalization continues. ``By 1991,'' Schell notes, ``almost nobody in China was taking Marxism seriously.'' But the country presents the paradox of almost wild capitalist enthusiasm (with strange elements, including the success of a $1,500 limited edition Mao watch with diamond- and sapphire-studded gold casing) and a Stalinist security apparatus that presides over labor camps with 1020 million prisoners. China is now, Schell writes, irrevocably part of the world economic system, but he does not venture to predict the outcome. Schell doesn't give as immediate a sense of life in China as do Kristof and WuDunn in China Wakes (p. 826), nor has he travelled as widely, but he brings great analytical power and understanding to one of the most important political stories of our time. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-70132-0
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1994


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