Chou: the Story of Zhou Enlai, 1898-1976, by Dick Wilson
Father is somewhat irresponsible, given to childish enthusiasms, extravagant habits and disgraceful infidelities. He is not really very mature. It is Mother who holds the family together. She controls the household finances as best she can, keeps the children fed and clothed, and pacifies the neighbours. Sometimes she argues with Father; but when his mind... Read More
Pouring cold water on mid-1980s enthusiasm for China.
When you go to China they give you a banquet. The format of these functions is always the same, whether you are President of the United States or the export manager of Nuts & Washers, Ltd — though of course there are differences of scale. Smiling officials usher you to the seat of honour. The... Read More
An attack on the TV series The Heart of the Dragon.
The Heart of the Dragon — Channel 4's series on life in China, has attracted much attention. But, as one who has lived in the People's Republic in close contact with ordinary Chinese, I feel qualified to say that the creators of this series have been taken for a ride. I am sure the filmmakers... Read More
Return to Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer
In 1944 Heinrich Harrer escaped from an Indian PoW camp and trekked over the Himalayas into Tibet. The Tibetans — a hospitable people under enlightened rulers — made him welcome and employed him in civil engineering tasks. Harrer fell in love with the country, as everybody did, and stayed seven years, until the Chinese annexation.... Read More
The difficulty of economic reform in China.
I have a friend in China — let us call him Wu Ming — who is a schoolteacher. His salary is £20 a month. He lives in a bare concrete dormitory with other single men and eats canteen food (which is awful). Wu Ming's hobby is electronics. He's quite a wizard — once I needed... Read More
Shamans, Lamas, and Evangelicals: the English Missionaries in Siberia, by C.R. Bawden
This is an account of Stallybrass and Swan, two protestant missionaries who spent the 1820s and 1830s trying to evangelise the Buryat Mongols of eastern Siberia. It is a dismal tale, very capably told, of dogged heroism ground down to nothing by misfortune, apathy and oriental politics. The diligence of the missionaries was stupendous. They... Read More
Strategy for Survival, by Chiao Chiao Hsieh
An acquaintance of mine arrived in Taiwan (alias the "republic of China") in 1971, the week after Nixon announced his intention to visit Peking. The air was thick with anxiety. Those who had somewhere to go were preparing to leave, considering that, with the collapse of American support and the anticipated expulsion from the U.N.,... Read More
The Soong Dynasty, by Sterling Seagrave
There were once three sisters. The first loved money; the second loved her country; the third loved power. What a great idea for a novel! Let's see … First sister marries a banker and becomes immensely rich. Second sister elopes with a middle-aged revolutionary. Marvellous! You can imagine the publisher reaching for his cheque-book already.... Read More