CHINA AS I SEE IT by Pearl S. Buck


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A group of speeches and articles composed from 1938 to 1951, when Miss Buck stopped writing on China, with a final essay on China today which discerns ""recovery"" from ideological disruption. Partly bemuse of her enthusiasm, many of the pieces are engaging, despite her off-putting tendency to address her audience as bright but very ignorant children, and her cloying belief in timeless national character. Recurrent themes include foreigners' wicked treatment of China; the absence of degradation among the Chinese poor; the likenesses between Chinese and Americans fostered by wide open spaces; the former's scrutability and aversion to killing; and the notion that the Chinese are accustomed to practical democratic self-government through their tradition of ""family-centered"" rule. There is a lamentable inclination to view unsanitary conditions, warlords, etc. as innocuously picturesque; the lighthearted 1937 discussion of graft, for instance, strikes a naive or disingenuous note in the context of Nationalist rampages. (Miss Buck is far from uncritical of the Nationalists, though she bestows a lot of empathy on Chiang.) Notwithstanding large patches of intellectual indulgence in the merely sentimental good will which she herself deprecates, it's a very readable collection with an interesting kind of historical play, rather than the drawer-emptier one might have expected.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1970
Publisher: John Day