JOURNEY TO THE FORBIDDEN CHINA by Stephen W. Mosher

JOURNEY TO THE FORBIDDEN CHINA

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Mosher is the Stanford Ph.D. candidate, author of Broken Earth, who got into trouble with Peking and his university department for his conduct as a researcher in China in 1979-80; here he describes the month-long motor trip into the South China hinterlands that preceded his expulsion, and the expulsion itself--which he depicts as an unwarranted, self-protective action by the official who gave him the travel permit. (As Mosher tells it, he was falsely condemned on a technicality--failing to immediately register in a new place, when his permit gave him twelve hours to do so.) As in Broken Earth, Mosher engages from the first in misleading self-dramatization, implying that no other Westerner had seen what he saw, or seen through Maoist China's ""consciously and carefully cultivated image of oneness with the peasantry""; as in that volume, he sees poverty and exploitation at every hand, except for an occasional Party-official enclave. But Mosher also reveals an attitude toward the peasantry peculiar in a supposed student of agrarian life--writing in platitudinous clich‚s of being oppressed by ""the thought of the silent huddled masses of humanity that I knew we were constantly passing,"" concluding (afactually and ahistorically) that ""there is little that any economic system can do for the peasant. . . as long as he remains a peasant. It is only upward mobility, the movement from peasant to farmer to factory worker to tradesman, that can truly change his life for the better."" Tell that to the peasant-farmer multitudes who are currently rebuilding their houses, stocking them with washing machines and TVs. The book is crabbed as a travel chronicle: ""Kweichow's nickname is 'China's Switzerland,' which gives a good sense of its ragged, landlocked geography, but is completely misleading as regards its charms. The countryside was desolate. It was birdless, treeless, and bleak, entirely barren of the profusion of growth that had given to the Kwangsi mountainsides behind us their (false) sense of profligacy."" It is blinkered and out-of-date as a report on rural conditions. (See instead Chen Village, by Anita Chan et al., of 1984.) It is also a minor, unfortunate example of misplaced quasi-scholarship.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1985
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan