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A personal journey of discovery into Deng Xiaoping's China from 1980 until March, 1984, when the author, an Italian journalist writing for Der Spiegel, was expelled from that country, a victim of his own curiosity. Terzani, enfused by dreams of a new society built by Mao Zedong, resolved to immerse himself in Chinese culture and language (he even adopted a Chinese name, Deng Tiannuo, so that his sojourn would appear to be less that of a foreigner). When Deng's open-door policy arrived in 1980, Terzani packed up his whole family and began his four-year journey. Terzani's pieces are a big-picture exploration of Chinese culture and politics. This is in contrast to some recent portrayals by Liang Neng, a Chinese exile, who looked more at individuals. Liang, enthused by private freedoms, came away with a more guardedly optimistic feeling. Terzani, though, in his more general vision, was not impressed. ""Undoubtedly,"" he writes, ""Deng's reforms have brought advantages and some material progress, but they have been accompanied by new injustices, new privileges and corruption."" What he also sees is a danger in China's rush to accept Western ways. ""By adopting Western standards in its economy, culture, and, even, clumsily, in fashion, is China not renouncing its uniqueness, thus giving the Chinese a new inferiority complex which could, in turn, cause an explosion and yet another backlash?"" Or, as a former Red Guard put it: ""For the revolution, we could die. How could we die for a refrigerator?"" Good reportage. An interesting section, by the way, was contributed by Terzani's two children excoriating the dull, dreary, repressive, unimaginative education system to which they were subjected.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Henry Holt