Dimensions: 336 pages, 8.55 × 5.74 × 1.04 in
Published: November 20, 2009
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0385663587
ISBN - 13: 9780385663588
Read from the Book
1 Mission Impossible On the tarmac at Newark International Airport, a heat wave makes the August air dance. Inside our Boeing 777, a black flight attendant sings out the standard Chinese greeting. “Ni hao,” she chimes, mangling the tones. Nevertheless the passengers, mostly mainland Chinese, seem pleased. When even this American female is trying to speak their language, it reinforces their view that the Middle Kingdom is, once again, the center of the world. My husband, Norman, and I lived in Beijing for years during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. On this trip back, we are bringing two reluctant fellow travelers, our teenaged sons, Ben, sixteen, and Sam, thirteen. As usual these days on flights to Beijing, every seat is taken. The Chinese passengers in their knock-off Burberry outfits are more self-assured than the handful who left the mainland during Chairman Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In the 1970s, the Chinese who traveled abroad were members of official delegations, kept on short leashes, tight schedules and tiny cash allowances. Foreigners heading to China faced obstacles, too. Beijing rarely issued visas to Americans, but Norman was deemed to be “friendly.” His father, Jack Shulman, had been an aide to William Z. Foster, longtime head of the Communist Party USA. In 1965, Jack had gone to Beijing to polish English-language propaganda at Xinhua, the state-run New China News Agency. To the Chinese, it was natural for a son to joi
Table of Contents
1 Mission Impossible
2 Life as It Has Always Been Lived
3 You Can’t Get There from Here
4 No One Left Behind to Say Who Went Where
5 You Aren’t Allowed to Call Anyone an Idiot–in English or Chinese
6 Is That Why They Call It Chai-Na?
8 The Decade of Disaster
9 Forbidden City
10 Building Beijing
11 Neither of Us Can Handle the Twenty-First Century
12 Seeing Flowers from a Galloping Horse
13 Made in China
14 Stand a Head above Others
15 It’s Like Looking for Her in a Vast Ocean
16 This Is the Big Boss Culture!
17 Sex in Da City
18 Sometimes It Takes a While to Notice What’s Not There
19 The Ten Commandments in English and the Lord’s Prayer in Chinese
20 Women Hold Up Half the Sky; I Never Thought Their Arms Would Get Tired
21 Move Out Early. Realize Your Dream Early
22 My Deepest Apologies. I Have Wronged You
23 They’re All Crazy
24 Stepping into Heaven
25 Straight to Heaven
26 Lu Yi’s Revenge
27 Lu Yi’s Revenge II
28 A Grain of Sand, Helping China to Change
From the Publisher
Jan Wong has returned to Beijing. Her quest: to find someone she encountered briefly in 1973, and whose life she was certain she had ruined forever.
In the early 70s, Jan Wong travelled from Canada to become one of only two Westerners permitted to study at Beijing University. One day a young stranger, Yin Luoyi, asked for help in getting to the United States. Wong, then a starry-eyed Maoist, immediately reported Yin to the authorities. Thirty-three years on, and more than a decade after the publication of her bestselling Red China Blues, Jan Wong revisits the Chinese capital to begin her search for the person who has haunted her conscience. She wants to apologize, to somehow make amends. At the very least, she wants to discover whether Yin survived.
As Jan Wong hunts through the city, she finds herself travelling back through the decades, back to her experiences in the Cultural Revolution, to places that were once of huge importance to her. She has changed, of course, but not as much as Beijing. One of the world’s most ancient cities is now one of its most modern. The neon signs no longer say “Long Live Chairman Mao” but instead tout Mary Kay cosmetics and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Places she once knew have vanished, bulldozed into oblivion and replaced by avant-garde architecture, trendy bars, and sleek condos. The people she once knew have changed, too, for better or for worse. Memories are everywhere. By searching out old friends and acquaintances, Jan Wong uncovers tantalizing clues about the woman she wronged. She realizes her deepest fears and regrets were justified. But Yin herself remains elusive–until the day she phones Jan Wong.
Emotionally powerful and rich with detail, Beijing Confidential weaves together three distinct stories–Wong’s journey from remorse to redemption, Yin’s journey from disgrace to respectability, and Beijing’s stunning journey from communism to capitalism.
About the Author
Jan Wong was the much-acclaimed Beijing correspondent for The Globe and Mail from 1988 to 1994. She is a graduate of McGill University, Beijing University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is the recipient of a (US) George Polk Award, the New England Women’s Press Association Newswoman of the Year Award, the (Canadian) National Newspaper Award and a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Silver Medal, among other honours for her reporting. Wong has also written for The New York Times , The Gazette in Montreal, The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal. Her first book, Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now , was named one of Time magazine’s top ten books of 1996 and remains banned in China. It has been translated into Swedish, Finnish, Dutch and Japanese, and optioned for a feature film. Jan Wong is a third-generation Canadian, born and raised in Montreal. She first went to China in 1972 at the height of the Cultural Revolution as one of only two Westerners permitted to enrol at Beijing University. There, she renounced rock music, wielded a pneumatic drill at a factory and hauled pig manure in the paddy fields. She also met and married the only American draft dodger from the Vietnam War in China. During those six years in China, she learned fluent Mandarin and earned a degree in Chinese history. From 1988 to 1994, Jan Wong returned as China correspondent for the Globe and Mail . In reporting on the tumultuous new era of capi
Praise for Red China Blues:
“A marvellous book by one of Canada’s best foreign correspondents at the top of her form.”
—The Gazette (Montreal)
“Totally captivating. A wonderful memoir.”
—The Globe and Mail
“With her unique perspective, Wong has given us front row seats at Mao’s theater of the absurd. It is hard not to laugh and cry . . . this book will become a classic, a must-read for anyone interested in China.”
—The New York Times
“This superb memoir is like no other account of life in China under both Mao and Deng. . . . Unique, powerful and moving.”
1. Jan Wong uses details such as a shoe polishing machine or the prevalence of walls to give us an insight into the psyche and society of Beijing. What artefacts or features would you choose to exemplify your own culture?
2. How do you feel about Chinese city-dwellers’ current obsession with status symbols? Does it suggest a healthy society?
3. By using nicknames (“Fu the Enforcer”), colourful translations of names (“Fat Paycheck”) and emphasis of personal characteristics (Cadre Huang’s giggle, Alfred Peng’s “Write that down!”), the author populates the book with an almost Dickensian cast of characters. Does this help you through the narrative?
4. Does it seem natural to you that people such as Scarlet who were formerly the most ardent Maoists, are now the most ferociously acquisitive capitalists?
5. This book is written from an immensely complex perspective. Do you think there is any danger that Jan Wong’s previous experience of China might distort her understanding of modern Beijing as well as enhance it?
6. When Yin (Lu Yi) is promoted to the publicity department of the oil field where she has been sent as a punishment, she describes it as “stepping into heaven.” What does this tell you about the human ability to cope with hardship?
7. Do you think that pretending the Cultural Revolution never happened might be useful for the generations who lived through it? Or is “truth and reconciliation” necessary? The comments about the “solace of silence” (pages 291-292) can be borne in mind.
8. Does the book give you an impression of a culture reinventing itself, or one that has survived despite revolution?
9. In China the Internet is censored; people in the West are told the web is impossible to regulate. What does this suggest to you?
10. What does the book gain from the presence of Jan Wong’s teenage sons?