Monday, August 17, 2009

Nonfiction Monday

Well, it's not for kids, but it's Nonfiction and might be a good one for those of you signing up for my China Challenge!

Also, check out other reading challenges at the brand new Reading Challenges Clearinghouse. I did a lot of work over the weekend and its success will depend on your help.

Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang Zhao Ziyang, translated and edited by Bao Pu, Renee Chiang, and Adi Ignatius with a foreword by Roderick MacFarquhar

Zhao Ziyang joined the Communist Youth Leage in 1932 and the Party in 1938. In 1939 he was party secretary for Hua County. He then rose through Party ranks. He was temporarily purged during the Cultural Revolution, but reinstated before its end, by being appointed Party Secretary and Deputy Director of the Revolutionary Committee for Inner Mongolia in 1971. In 1973, he arrived in Beijing and rose through the ranks of the Central Committee. By 1980 he was Premier and in 1987 he became General Secretary.

The bulk of Zhao's career was spent on China's economic reforms, but he is best remembered for opposing Deng Xiaoping's orders for martial law during the 1989 Tian'anmen Square protests. He refused to the be man who ordered the army on students. Because of this, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Historians always wished that he had written his memoirs to tell his side of the story, but he didn't. After his death in 2005, it came to light that while Zhao hadn't written his memoirs, he had secretly recorded them and hid the tapes in plain sight.

This book is the transcription and translation of those tapes.

It's an undeniably important document and parts of it are very accessible. I really enjoyed the chapters on the Tian'anmen protests and all of the cut-throat politics used in the upper echelons of Chinese power. The false rumors, two-faced comments, and back-room maneuvering is rather spectacular. The chapters on economic reform are actually probably the most useful for those studying the current Chinese market, but I found it to be dragging, because frankly, I'm not that interested in such things.

I wouldn't call this book overly academic, but you should have some China-geek tendencies. The editors do all they can to make this book as accessible as possible-- every chapter has an introduction to give background information and there is a really hand list of who's who in the back. That said, you'll probably want some background on 1980s China or at least the Tian'anmen protests.

Overall, I found most of it fascinating.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to read this as part of the challenge My Friend Amy organized — the book is on Newsweek's 50 Books For Our Times list.

Jennie said...

Sweet! I'm reading the Joe McCarthy book for that one!