FLOWERS ON AN IRON TREE: Five O'ties of China. by Ross Terrill

FLOWERS ON AN IRON TREE: Five O'ties of China.

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No raves here commending Chinese self-sacrifice and manic industriousness, no homilies about how Americans should emulate Chinese contentment with discipline and poverty. Terrill, a Harvard researcher, a contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly and author of 800,000,000: The Real China (1972), made a third trip to the People's Republic in 1973. The Cultural Revolution had decidedly simmered down. Indeed, the striking thing about his travelogue is its sense of relaxation. Rather than glorify the peasantry, Terrill investigated five major cities--Shanghai, Hangchow, Wuhan, Peking, and the Manchurian center of Dairen. Identifying himself as a socialist, Terrill shows only the faintest interest in Chinese economic growth per se, though these cities are industrial centers. In the factories he discovered middie-aged cadres still appreciative of Soviet accomplishments and prone to attack U.S. imperialism, or to brag about the advances of Chinese brain surgery. Along with finely-toned cityscapes and tall children, Terrill found that toilets and radios remain scarce, fees are still charged for schooling, comic books are much in demand at lending libraries, curiosity about the outside world seemed minimal. Mao buttons and wall slogans had disappeared; bygone purges were brushed aside dispassionately; and the idea that manure-spreading has more value than engineering was no longer a rallying cry. Terrill also reports that the only ""ugly coercion"" he found was the force-feeding of Peking ducks. Street life was easy-going--a scrubbed, egalitarian version of quaint old China. Enjoyable.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 1975
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown