Read Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now by Jan Wong Online


Jan Wong, a Canadian of Chinese descent, went to China as a starry-eyed Maoist in 1972 at the height of the Cultural Revolution. A true believer--and one of only two Westerners permitted to enroll at Beijing University--her education included wielding a pneumatic drill at the Number One Machine Tool Factory. In the name of the Revolution, she renounced rock & roll, hauJan Wong, a Canadian of Chinese descent, went to China as a starry-eyed Maoist in 1972 at the height of the Cultural Revolution. A true believer--and one of only two Westerners permitted to enroll at Beijing University--her education included wielding a pneumatic drill at the Number One Machine Tool Factory. In the name of the Revolution, she renounced rock & roll, hauled pig manure in the paddy fields, and turned in a fellow student who sought her help in getting to the United States. She also met and married the only American draft dodger from the Vietnam War to seek asylum in China.Red China Blues is Wong's startling--and ironic--memoir of her rocky six-year romance with Maoism (which crumbled as she became aware of the harsh realities of Chinese communism); her dramatic firsthand account of the devastating Tiananmen Square uprising; and her engaging portrait of the individuals and events she covered as a correspondent in China during the tumultuous era of capitalist reform under Deng Xiaoping. In a frank, captivating, deeply personal narrative she relates the horrors that led to her disillusionment with the "worker's paradise." And through the stories of the people--an unhappy young woman who was sold into marriage, China's most famous dissident, a doctor who lengthens penises--Wong reveals long-hidden dimensions of the world's most populous nation.In setting out to show readers in the Western world what life is like in China, and why we should care, she reacquaints herself with the old friends--and enemies of her radical past, and comes to terms with the legacy of her ancestral homeland....

Title : Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780385482325
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now Reviews

  • Martine
    2019-07-05 08:53

    Memoirs about life in twentieth-century China tend to be profoundly depressing. I remember reading Wild Swans as a student and being so utterly depressed afterwards that I seriously wondered if I really wanted to go on learning Chinese and becoming a sinologist. And then I went to China and realised that no, I most certainly did not want to be a career sinologist. China and I are a bad match, but that doesn't stop me from continuing to be fascinated by the country.Of all the memoirs of life in twentieth-century China which have been published over the past twenty years, this is my favourite, precisely because it is not depressing. Sure, Wong describes some pretty shocking stuff, but for all that, the tone of her book is remarkably light-hearted. It's an easy, thoroughly engaging and occasionally mind-boggling memoir-cum-history of China which I highly recommend to anyone who is remotely interested in China.The first half of the book is quite unique. In it, Wong (born into a fairly wealthy Canadian Chinese family) describes her teenage love affair with Maoism, which culminates in her visit to China in 1972, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. While shocked by the poverty she encounters, she decides to stay in China, becoming one of only two foreign students allowed to study at the newly reopened Beijing University. Eager to impress their two foreign guests, the authorities try to pamper then, only to find that Jan and her American fellow student Erica are devoted Maoists who, rather than having favours bestowed on them, want to become worker-soldier-peasant students just like their Chinese classmates. So when they're not learning Chinese by reading Mao and translations of Stalin, they shovel manure, work heavy equipment and break their backs harvesting aubergines and peanuts. While doing so, they encounter an awful lot of stuff that isn't quite right (and do some things themselves that are't completely right, either), but being young and naive and impossibly idealistic, they turn a blind eye. Wong ends up staying in China for six years, during which time her belief in Mao's brand of socialism very slowly erodes. From the reader's perspective, it takes an awful lot of time for her to realise that the Cultural Revolution is a disaster, but her misguided faith and enthusiasm do make for a very interesting read. Hers is a rare first-hand account of the Cultural Revolution from a brain-washed Westerner's point of view, and it's compelling stuff.The second part of the book is less unique, but still fascinating. After a lengthy stint in North America, Wong returns to China in the late 1980s as a journalist, and decides to stay in Beijing when all hell breaks loose on Tiananmen Square in June 1989 and nearly all other foreigners are being evacuated from the country. Her account of the Tiananmen massacre is utterly compelling and chilling. She then goes on to describe meetings with dissidents, social ills in the countryside, the effects of China's new-found capitalism, etc., all the while drawing comparisons with the China she knew in the 1970s. I guess one of the reasons why Red China Blues strikes such a chord with me is because in a way, Jan Wong's relationship with China mirrors my own. Like Wong, I went from infatuation with China to an acute dislike of the country. Needless to say, my own story isn't nearly as spectacular or dramatic as hers, but still, I recognise the feelings she describes.Which is not to say that you have to be a disillusioned sinologist to appreciate this book. There's plenty to enjoy for non-sinologists. I have never read any of Jan Wong's columns in the Globe and Mail, but judging from this book, she is an excellent journalist. She is well-informed, has a good eye for odd and telling details and comes up with some very astute observations on China's past, present and future. Furthermore, she is honest and self-deprecating and gets good quotes from the locals because they trust her more than they do non-Chinese-looking-and-speaking journalists. It's easy to criticise Wong for being so terribly naive in the 1970s, but I for one found her portrayal of a genuinely deluded Maoist quite fascinating, not to mention frequently entertaining. As I said, it's a remarkably light-hearted book given the subject matter -- a nice change from all the serious, soul-crushing memoirs which have been published about life in China over the past twenty years. Very highly recommended to those who like well-written accounts of unusual lives and even more unusual historical developments.

  • Ensiform
    2019-06-21 12:09

    The tale of the Chinese-Canadian author’s long path from a deluded, naïve red-to-the-core Maoist to a cynical reporter who sees just how wrong she was. Wong’s life is enthralling in its sheer unlikeliness, even if Wong herself comes off as an unrepentant spoiled fool in the first half of the book. Wong dismisses the concerns of her wealthy father (born in Canada, the son of an emigrant) to become one of only two Westerners allowed to attend Beijing University in 1972, in the throes of the Cultural Revolution, and demands to work in the fields, so she can be “purified” by labor. She is far too stupid to understand that Mao’s policies were insane and destructive, and actually believed what millions of Chinese knew to be madness. If Wong were Chinese, she’d be merely naïve, or a tool of the system – as an educated Canadian who should have known better, she comes off as dangerously stupid, and her book is full of excuses and alibis for her actions. She takes pains to cite the turbulent political times, the anti-American sentiment, her youth… but those are not valid excuses. Millions of Americans criticized their government in the ‘60s and ‘70s without swallowing Mao’s gnomish madness, and tens of millions of teenagers may have impulsive tendencies but manage not to be raving absolutists about things which are obviously untrue.So the first half of the book is infuriating, though still fascinating. Very early into Wong’s first visit to China, she started noticing that the Cultural Revolution had trashed standards throughout China, that “some people seemed more equal than others,” that food stores were sparse; but still she remains deluded and committed to Maoism. What kind of mind must she have had to be so blind? At one point she is so brainwashed (not, it must be noted, by anyone but her own faulty reasoning and stupidity) she denounces students who want her help to escape China. Wong realizes that this was a low point in her development, but she maintains a defensive attitude about even this, comparing herself to other Chinese denouncers. (She doesn’t seem to realize that they, who had to live there, may have had practical reasons to denounce others, such as to avoid more severe punishment for loved ones who may have been implicated.) As with all brainwashed zealots, it is only after her personal desires or freedoms are impacted that she truly begins to question what she believes: “I was sick of the double standard… How dare he interfere in my life. I had changed… I refused to endure the same kind of humiliation every Chinese endured,” she writes about the authorities’ attempts to prevent her from seeing her future husband. Wong’s stupidity and self-interest is rather pathetic, and she is a highly unsympathetic narrator – but as I say, the book is fascinating, if only because her experiences are so unreal and rare. After her apostasy, the book gets even more interesting, because of Wong’s unique ability to blend in with the Chinese people and get stories for the New York Times. She writes about the lead-up to the Tiananmen reprisals, when students went on “hunger strikes” in turns (with snack breaks), and how it suddenly turned from a rather jovial sit-in to a massacre. She gives in-depth reports on execution fields and the practicalities of summary executions; she visits entire villages made retarded and dwarfed by pollution; she investigates modern women trafficking; and she marvels at the breakneck pace of China’s embrace of capitalism, with its McDonald’s run by ex-cadre leaders, the new extravagance of penis and breast reconstruction (though the former has roots in China’s early rural economy, when boys had their penises bitten off by feral pigs as they defecated in fields at night). “Even my maid had a maid,” she writes, bemused at the changes. At this point Wong seems very clear-headed, but even late in the book, she claims that China was “an unrelentingly pure country” in 1980 because guards didn’t take bribes, compared to the pervasive bribery rampant in China today. But surely she realizes that bribery sprouts from lawlessness, and the lack of bribery is more likely rooted in fear of a mad despot than some ideological “purity” that never existed? It left me wondering if Wong ever really learned a lesson, or just got tired of being treated like a Chinese person. That aside, it’s a fascinating look at Chinese written from a unique perspective.

  • Andrew Milton
    2019-07-02 07:55

    A good book about a most bizarre life…sort of. Well, half of a good book.A young Canadian national wants to understand her roots, and returns to China…in 1972. At the beginning of the end of the Cultural Revolution she arrives a committed Maoist, and is soon allowed to enroll at Beijing University (one of only two Westerners given such permission, and explicitly by Zhou Enlai). When just about the last of the 700 million Chinese have abandoned any sense that Maoism is a system that could work, she is eager to reform herself through hard labor, and she craves the back-breaking farm labor that had substituted for education for so many years. And while her university comrades say what they know they’re supposed to say in order to bend with the madly swirling political winds, she earnestly criticizes herself, turns in others who ask her about how to get out to the West, and embraces the starvation diet—created by Party ineptitude, but proclaimed a proletarian virtue—as an appropriate tool of personal reform…it’s bourgeois to want to avoid hunger.The interesting part of the book is to watch the difficulty with which Wong, writing in the 1990s, comes to terms with her own thinking and conduct. It is heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time. Even Wong sees, now, the ridiculousness of one of her student comrades boasting, “I am a peasant. I have no skills. I’m not smart at my studies. My political consciousness isn’t high. But there is one thing I do well. I loyally, fervently obey the Party’s orders.” It seems clear that at the time, Wong would have been pleased if she could so boast.After 8 years, she leaves, disillusioned, but still holding out some hope that China has a chance to mark out a better path. What that path is and where that hope comes from isn’t exactly clear, but hope springs eternal….She returns in 1988 as a reporter and witnesses the demonstrations and massacres in 1989. (She had seen the demonstrations at Tiananmen in 1976 following Zhou Enlai’s death, and in 1979 at the so-called Democracy Wall.) From her hotel room right off the square she witnesses a substantial portion of the killing, and the details she offers are important and depressing.And for each death she saw, her former belief (naiveté?) turns into a rancorous antagonism, that makes the rest of the book much less satisfying. She takes great pains to now point out how corrupted and horrific the system really is. The problem is that her zeal is still abundant, but in the other direction, so she seems to lack perspective. Yes, it is useful and important to hear that China executes about 7000 people a year (more than 60% of the world total), or that drugs and prostitution have accompanied the capitalist expansion, or that amazing poverty persists in places where the capitalist road has yet to be built.These are not the same, though, as the disagreement she has with her nanny over whether her newborn should use diapers or the traditional hole in the crotch pants. Intent on diapers she finally convinced the nanny to use disposables, having decided against cloth because they ARE silly—her emphasis. “After all, who used cloth toilet paper?” As many people as use polymer fiber (i.e., plastic) toilet paper?Or her facile rationalizations about her cook. He was probably inflating the grocery bill, she says, but she kept him on because, “really, how many times in life could you find someone who made perfect roast chicken?” About as often as you find any useful information in reports of lunching with a celebrity guest and then deconstructing him or her in your column (as she now does for the Toronto Globe and Mail)?And, if only the awkwardly shallow analysis stopped there. Reminiscing with on old party cadre from her time at Beijing University, he notes that the foreign students don’t want Chinese roommates anymore. Is there still any open-door schooling (labor and criticisms, being the bigger part of that program), Wong asks. No, now students want comfort and factories want to make money (so aren’t interested in inefficient workers press-ganged from universities).“I felt a bid sad,” Wong writes. As difficult and crazy as my years at Beijing University had been, I had had a unique experience. Now, the students coming after me were having such a conventional time they might as well have been studying in Singapore or Taipei or Hong Kong.”Hey, hey, insane social distortions that ruined people’s lives are better experiences than conventional education. Just look at Comrade Wong, she’s done just fine for herself. It reminds me of when I was in Hungary in 1987 thinking it was “cool,” “fun,” “interesting,” or whatever to be in a communist country…knowing the whole time that I got to leave.Then she turns her weak insights to an explanation of how the one-child policy will create democracy because all sorts of spoiled little emperors will not cotton to the state telling them what to do. As one of her friends put it, “Everyone will want to tell everyone else what to do. You’ll have a democracy.”Interesting notion of democracy. I've always thought of democracy as requiring a commitment to a set of electoral procedures for selecting the policy decision makers (who do get to tell us what to do, in some degree) which involves accepting an outcome that you may not like.In any case, just like Americans, she says, the only children of China are growing up self-centered individualists. Where does Wong conceptually fit all those self-centered Americans who professed an intent to flee to Canada following a Bush re-election…but didn’t?Maybe those are the post-Vietnam Americans who have no sense of history, just like the post-Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) Chinese, she notes. I guess that’s why we’ve been rehashing the Vietnam experience for the last 30 years, whereas Chinese have left murals of Mao’s revolutionary sayings plastered on their houses—the better to convince the passing Red Guards that you’re adequately revolutionary and so don’t need to be reformed by having your house ransacked—for the last 30 years. (Sure, I know people who marched around their backyards chanting about Ho Chi Minh, and they're usually sheepish about it now...and they're lawyers.)As Peter Hessler, the author of the consistently brilliant River Town, pointed out such a house to several of us, he observed that the Chinese have not taken any accounting of the social and political effects of the Cultural Revolution. Consider a google search of “syllabus Vietnam” to see how little accounting Americans have taken of Vietnam.I couldn't make it to the end...where Wong attends the official celebration of Mao's 100th birthday.

  • Michael Gerald
    2019-07-10 08:54

    A revealing memoir from one who can be said to have had been to hell and back, Red China Blues chronicles one woman's flirtation with Mao and his thoughts and actions, her immersion in real-life Chinese society under Mao and his successors, and her eventual disillusionment with the system she once held with the highest esteem.One strength of Wong's memoirs is her access to places and events not available to others, plus her Chinese descent and her knowledge of both Chinese and English. Especially riveting are her first-hand chronicle of the Beijing Massacre in 1989 as a witness, from the start of the unrest by students, workers, and police, how the demonstrations scuttled the Sino-Soviet Summit with Gorbachev, and how that failure enraged the Chinese Politburo, to the eventual brutal crackdown. Her book also exposes how China's concentration camps are being run like the Nazis': from the use of forced labor to make goods, to the illegal harvesting of organs, the abuse and corruption of power, and the numerous executions that make China the death penalty capital of the world. Infuriating and riveting.

  • NinaCD
    2019-07-17 09:52

    Such a different perspective on the culture revolution. Written by a Canadian-born Chinese who returned to China as a die-hard Maoist during the heat of Cultural Revolution and direct-enrolled in Beida. She became fluent in Chinese and married a fellow ex-pat, going on to settle in Beijing as a reporter for the foreign press. She witnessed the entire Tiananmen disaster and I've never read an account as detailed as the one in this book, taking up more than a full chapter. Her perspective on the transition in power between the 70's and 80's is mind-opening. While she is always cheering for Chinese to succeed, she does not hesitate to criticize the government and all the while also holds onto nostalgic sentiment for her Maoist days of youth.

  • Suzanne
    2019-06-28 09:08

    Goodreads recommended this book after I read Jung Chang's amazing saga of her family's Chinese history in Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China. Jan Wong's book is an account of her journey as a Canadian-raised daughter of Chinese descent, to a young woman who travels to China ready to embrace the Maoist ideal.Following high school in 1972, Jan Wong was selected by the Chinese government as one of two western international students to attend Beijing University. From the outset, although she thoroughly embraced the Chinese cultural revolution, she knew she was being treated differently. She and the other "foreign" students didn't have it nearly as rough as the native students, and it wasn't long until Wong started demanding equal treatment. (After relinquishing the private chef and eating in the cafeteria with the rest of the students, Wong admits it was the first time she realized there was such a thing as terrible Chinese food!) The Chinese government obviously thought they would be able to use Wong as part of their propaganda towards the west, and for awhile they were correct. Eventually, Wong's eyes to opened to the reality of the Maoist government, and then felt stabbed in the back when she learned that her Chinese friends didn't actually believe the communist nonsense they had been spouting in front of her for years. They were just too afraid to contradict Mao's platform.The book continues through Wong's marriage to an American who dodged the draft during the Vietnam War, their subsequent repatriation to the west, and her eventual return to Beijing as a journalist. Her coverage of the Tiananmen Square Massacre was especially informative and moving.This was an excellent memoir, filled in insight, humor and drama. I highly recommend this one!

  • Bryan Mitchell
    2019-06-23 06:59

    This was a book I looked forward to after finding her work throughCBC's Definitely Not the Opera. That and reports on China fascinated me since I started surfing the web and foundBBC's James Reynolds because of the challenges brought on by state censorship. I will just say this now, Jan Wong does not disappoint. From her own Marxist views that inspired her to travel there, and even study at Beijing University, to her developing career as a reporter covering China, Wong weaves reportage and memoir together to provide a clear picture of China as rulers and policies change. Not to mention an excellent journey into Wong's experience as she explores her ancestral heritage and initial interest for Marx, Lenin, and Mao's philosophies. Those looking for a good travel memoir should check this one out!

  • Emily
    2019-07-03 05:11

    If you want to read a compelling memoir about the modern history of China, forget this trash and pick up "Life and Death in Shanghai" by Nien Cheng, or "Wild Swans" by Jung Chang. Don't waste your time with"Red China Blues."At first glance, one might peg "Red China Blues" as a story about growth---the bildungsroman of a Chinese-Canadian girl searching for identity and her dearly beloved, the fledgling communist Chinese government. What a lovely idea!The problem is, Jan Wong never seems to "come of age." She does not learn and grow from her experiences during the Cultural Revolution and beyond. To the contrary, she never becomes truly disillusioned with Chinese communism. She never grows up. She was---and still is---a privileged, self-important, self-righteous fool. She is haughty, arrogant, unapologetic, and, frankly, one of the most irritating personalities I've ever encountered in literature.Wong expresses no remorse or regret for her actions as a Red Guard---betraying comrades, ruining lives, and whatnot---not even with the benefit of hindsight.She makes some show of outrage toward the human rights violations committed by the communists during the 70s and 80s, but it comes across as token, insincere, an afterthought. It's as if her editor said to her, "This is pretty good, but you need to sound a little less crazy and a little more human." The only worthwhile section of this book is Wong's first-hand account of the 1989 Tianamen Square Massacre, which---I admit---is rather riveting.

  • Jan
    2019-07-20 08:55

    Jan Wong is a Chinese-Canadian journalist who, as a starry-eyed and naive teenager, believed so strongly in the Chinese Communist experience that she found a way to become one of two foreigners admitted to Beijing University during the height of the Cultural Revolution.In the end, Wong spent the majority of her late teens, twenties, and thirties living in "Red China." Her birds-eye view of the Cultural Revolution, of the "awakening" of Communist China under Deng Xiaoping, and, later, of the Tianamen Square riots and massacre, are absolutely fascinating. I found that particular aspect of her experience far more interesting than the books core - the author's own awakening from naive idealist to cynical realist, a journey so many of us make, no matter what it is we've been idealistic about.I'm giving the book 3 stars rather than 4 because it is a bit too long, and her attempts late in the book to slam the Chinese government rang a little hollow to me. In particular, her undisguised disgust over how the Chinese government uses prison labor to make cheap goods made me laugh out loud, since the privatization of prisons has basically allowed the same thing to happen in the United States over the last 20-30 years. But I digress, and Wong is certainly right that the Chinese government is not shy about committing atrocities within its own borders.A good read, but it'll take you a while to get through it.

  • Ellen
    2019-07-20 09:58

    Over the years since the book came out, I had tried a few times to read it but just couldn't finish it due to lack of interest. It wasn't until I returned from a recent trip to Beijing and other parts of China that I was able to finish the book. Wong's stories and anecdotes suddenly came alive to me because I had visited Beijing University, Tiananmen Square and other places in person. I feel like I understand my parents' China during the Communist era more. When I recommended this book to my brother and nephew, they were like, "Why should we read about China's past? China is so different now." Oh, but we who don't know our history are doomed to repeat it, boys. I highly encourage everyone to read this book and Wong's other 2 books about China. She's funny, feisty, and an underrated journalist.

  • Kate
    2019-06-24 08:54

    What a fascinating chronicle of a young Chinese-Canadian woman, enamored of the Maoists, who emigrates to Communist China. She undergoes extreme physical and mental challenge in an effort to become a purist, to change her bourgeois ways--only to witness the country open up to Capitalism after the death of Mao. Then she begins to realize how she'd been duped/brainwashed into believing in a system that wasn't what she'd thought it was.This book is a bit overwritten at times, but I'm glad I read it, and I appreciate the author's knowledge and insights. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about China before we head there this fall.

  • Loz
    2019-06-30 12:51

    I read this book and at times it made my jaw drop. This woman leaves a cushy life in Canada and heads to communist China. Why? Well she is an idealistic fool. She eventually finds villages where the entire population is inbred with amazing disabilities, she also ends up working in a factory and sleeping on the floor of it with her comrades. An amazing tale and I guarantee that by the end of the book you will want o just slap the author to wake her up. I really liked this book.

  • Julie
    2019-07-17 07:13

    I liked this book (or maybe I like it) but I can't say for sure because I CANNOT FINISH IT. You know how sometimes your mind is finished reading something before it's actually done? Yeah. I'm there.

  • S. Lang
    2019-07-09 08:47

    From what little I know, there's been quite a few memoirs written by survivors of totalitarian regimes. This one, however covers something even more riveting: China's transformation from Communist dictatorship to...well, a Communist dictatorship, with the addition of a free market.Wong is a journalist through and through. As such, she is obviously fond of cliches and colloquialisms- which can be off-putting to some, but personally I didn't mind them. The first few chapters recall her years at Beijing University (as a self-described "starry-eyed Maoist"). Here she enthusiastically shovelled manure and harvested wheat on weekends, showered once every four days, and worked in mines alongside her classmates while belting out "Sailing the Seas Depends on the Helmsman". Wong often sounds contemptuous of her former naivete, her infatuation with left-wing idealism...and it doesn't take long before the cracks start to show. For example, a brief romance with a fellow Westerner almost results in her expulsion. Friends rat each other out for being "counter-revolutionary", in the hope that they themselves will be overlooked. After a lacklustre graduation ceremony, she and her classmates are dismayed to find that their entire University education had consisted of farm work and being drilled in Mao Zedong Thought.Having grown disillusioned with China, Wong returned to Montreal. When she came back to China once again as a reporter for the 'Globe and Mail', she bore witness to the Tiananmen Square Massacre- and to the decadence, tragedy, and signs of hope that Deng Xiapeng's new capitalist policies had ushered in. Wong's former disgraced housekeeper is now a proud entrepeneur. A rural village is wrought with TB, malnutrition, and mental retardation.The local markets overflow with new imported foodstuffs...yet the once-blue skies are now choked by smog. People who had once been muzzled with fear now speak their minds without a second thought. No matter where you stand politically, this memoir is a fun-to-read expose...not unlike Barbara Ehenreich's 'Nickel and Dimed'.

  • Sarah Deeth
    2019-07-06 12:11

    Should be three and a half stars, but at this point I've given up pointing that out on this site. I read this right after reading another book about the Cultural Revolution-a story that was eye-opening and pretty heart breaking. So when the author says she went to China in the 70s because she admired what was going on over there, I was shocked. But this book is about Wong growing from a adamant Maoist to a skeptical journalist, a young teen who voluntarily signed up for hard labour with her fellow comrades to a reporter who dodged bullets as Tiananmen Square unfolded. So it's a pretty decent journey, and provides a lot of insight into how Communist China worked. But it loses stars because I found myself wondering how accurate some sections are-no one can possibly remember that much detail. And she's not as funny as she thinks she is.

  • Sara G
    2019-07-08 09:06

    This interesting memoir from a Canadian who was one of the first Western students at Beijing University and lived through the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square protests could have been better. Instead, I found it very polarizing. At first, the author as a young woman idolized Mao and his communist state. After 1989, she loathed it. There's no in between. The descriptions of the Chinese people and how life in Beijing has changed so drastically over the past few decades were amazing. The author just came off as too privileged for my tastes throughout the book.

  • Cheryl
    2019-07-03 09:01

    Loved it!

  • Sue
    2019-07-11 09:52

    Such an incredible life! She is a wonderful writer! You really come away with a good understanding of Maoism, the Cultural Revolution, and how the Chinese are still suffering today. Very sad.

  • Lotten
    2019-06-28 13:01

    Red China Blues är en mycket intressant och personlig biografi. Den är också välskriven, och det känns som om detta är författarens egna ord och betraktelser. Jag är mycket förtjust i den stundvis självironiska tonen när Jan Wong beskriver sitt unga jag.Men för mig krävde den väldigt mycket uppmärksamhet i läsningen. Var jag det minsta trött så missade jag detaljerna, för i varje stycke finns intressanta detaljer. Eftersom jag i februari var trött nästan hela tiden så läste jag den här boken i omgångar under nästan hela månaden. I början av boken, när Jan Wong kommer till Kina så upplevde jag den som lättläst, men i mitten så tyckte jag den var mindre intressant, för att mot slutet ta sig igen. Ett problem för mig var att det var oändligt många namn, som jag hade svårt att komma ihåg. Möjligen kan det delvis bero på att jag är ovan vid den kinesiska namnsättningen, men mest tror jag det beror på att Jan Wong berättar så många historier i historien.Red China Blues väcker många funderingar och jag tycker jag lär mig mycket. Även om jag efter att ha läst en del andra böcker, samt följt händelserna under 80-talet i media tycker mig kunna en del, så får man här en mer detaljerad och personlig kunskap.Efter att jag läst boken så googlade jag en del på Jan Wong, och upptäckte att hon är en kontroversiell journalist. Det påverkar ändå inte mitt intryck av att Red China Blues är en läsvärd biografi. Och jag brukar minst sagt vara kräsen på den punkten. Hon har också skrivit fler böcker, både om Kina och om hur hon behandlades senare i livet av bl.a. sin arbetsgivare.Omdöme: Välskriven biografi om idealism och fanatismBetyg: 4-

  • Amanda R
    2019-07-03 12:50

    This was excellent for so many reasons. Firstly, I know very little about China, either its history or its present situation, so this was extremely informative for me. She spends several chapters describing the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the events that led up to it, which was incredible. I learned about it in a world history class in about 1993, but I think we were still missing a lot of the details at that time and I don't much remember it anyway. I knew about the Tank Man, but beyond that I sort of had a vague idea that a few people had died and not much else. Obviously I was tragically wrong. The information about how Chinese culture evolved from Maoism to where it is now was really interesting too. And honestly, having read We the Living and now this, I can't understand how anybody ever thought that communism on a national scale was a good idea. Which leads me to my other favorite thing about that book, which was Jan Wong's evolution from fervent Maoist to moderate capitalist. She's very honest about how misguided and obnoxious she was on her first visit to China, which I really appreciate, plus it was so interesting to see how her attitude changed after having lived in China for several years. I believe that ages 19 and 20 are very significant for a lot of people. You still feel things as strongly as you did as a teenager, but you're closer to adulthood and more aware of the outside world. Those two factors combined make for some powerful convictions, which sometimes hold true and sometimes not so much. Jan Wong just experienced that on a much larger scale than many of us and I loved reading about it. Plus, she's a wonderful writer. As a journalist, she knows how to grab the reader's attention and make things clear and concise, which is hugely helpful when I'm reading about a subject I know almost nothing about. I get the impression that she has a reputation here in Canada for being rude and hostile, but I didn't see that at all. She's forthright and honest, sure, but not hostile. I've loved both of her books that I've read so far, and I believe I'm going to have to read all the rest of them as well. This was an impulse purchase from the Kindle store and I'm really glad I spent the money. This is a book I'll be reading again.

  • Steve
    2019-06-20 07:09

    In her autobiographical “Red China Blues,” author Jane Wong does what the much more vaunted Jung Chang and her similar “Wild Swans” did not. Specifically, she injects much-needed humor and self-effacement along with the obligatory tale of hardship during China’s Cultural Revolution. To be fair, Wong also plays things almost problematically middle-of-the-road, never fully condemning Mao’s edicts nor providing readers, especially bewildered Westerners or seething Chinese the kind of good vs. evil narrative that Chang does. In fact, she gets downright wistful for Mao’s socialist extremism as she frets about the dramatic economic changes that transform China following “The Great Helmsman’s” passing. Yet, I’m giving her a pass for several reasons, but the most important being that her honesty is never in question. She tells things as she saw them and doesn’t spare self-condemnation. While she does blame the propaganda she eagerly devoured at the beginning for the climate of frenzied paranoia that defined the Cultural Revolution, she admits that she was a true believer in the promises Mao made. She ends up sadder but wiser even as she strives to make it clear that she doesn’t regret much from her years in China, and I respect that level of personal integrity. Whereas Jung Chang railed at Mao for turning her into a bad person, Jane Wong takes the blame for willingly being duped. Engrossing, particularly when describing the rigors of life in rural China or the Tiananmen Square nightmare, Wong uses the skills she has as a journalist (and the rigorous journals she kept during her years of indoctrination) to give the reader a genuine first-hand experience. The book tails off a bit during the post-Tiananmen chapters, wherein she chronicles the economic changes in China during the era of Deng Xiaoping, but it’s still an interesting look back at the antecedents that have led to today’s economic circumstances in China. There are a lot of books about the Mao years and their effects on individual Chinese people, yet this is one that not only provides insight, but also a sense of wry humor to what is often written of in angry, bitter, and stark terms.

  • LisaShamchuk
    2019-07-02 12:12

    The first time I read this was for a university course, and the second for my own interest. I've always found this to be a worthy read - an insider's guide to modern Chinese history.

  • Zi Xin Lee
    2019-07-06 10:55

    Jan has an amazing story to tell. But she doesn't do it in the best way possible, at least in my opinion.Jan's memoir covers her very bizzare and interesting tale of transformation from an idealistic Maoist to a journalist who looks at China with eyes of chipped granite. Her ethnicity, Chinese, and her nationality, Canadian, makes the story all the more interesting. She had done open-schooling, eaten cornmeal balls, talked to dissidents, eyewitnessed the Tiananmen Square crackdown and had a showdown with a nanny with a maid. She has had an interesting life, and as a reader one certainty walks away satisfied with a good story, and much more knowledge about China's history.However, Jan forebodes her transformation liberally on the first part of the book where she described her Maoist years. The rest of the book seemed predictable, and the first part apologetic and spoiler-ish. She keeps looking back at her old self with comments to the effect that that she hadn't known better then. One does not get to experience her transformation along with her because the transformation is inevitable. A forgone conclusion. Had the text reflected the starry-eyed attitude she had in a less journalistic and factual, but more descriptive style, I think I would have felt more empathy for and understanding of her, and all her accompanying thoughts and actions. I would have felt more deeply the transformation she undoubtedly made the centre of her book. Nonetheless I felt this book was a good read. It was honest (jan admitted to some of the things she regretted doing), human (though the factual style of writing took a bit off that dimension) and educational (this part, factual style writing helped). It reflected China's weaknesses and strengths throughout the vicissitudes of history and political sea-changes, and the smallness of a single person witnessing it all, as well as the bated breath which the world held, and still holds, and they observe China unfurl and develop and make choices.

  • HelenJ
    2019-06-20 08:02

    I found it unbelievably mesmerizing how people could be treated so badly by people they were close to, and yet how people would help others out if they could do so without being reported [snitched on] To have a non-fiction book be so close to the many fiction books about China that I'd read by Lisa See, Diane Bestwick, Xinran [Sky Burial], Yiyun Li [Kinder than Solitude], Jenny Bowen [Wishing You Happy Forever], Jung Chang [Wild Swans], Pearl S. Buck, Denise Chong [The Concubine's Children] was good. I did however enjoy the historical fictional form better. I became very frustrated with this book. But I think the frustration was just with the extra senseless cruelty to the Chinese people. I was frustrated with Jan Wong that she would head to China as a devoted Maoist when her parents had done so much to give her a better life. However, I can't even imagine how frustrated she must have been when she played by the rules, snitching and working, and then to see that Mao didn't have the answers to feed and keep Chinese safe....quite the opposite. As the Cultural Revolution started she still bought in, only without quite the same fervour. It seemed to take seeing the Tiananmen Massacre to really let it sink in that here the corruptions were just as bad as under the feudal lords and maybe even worse. It was interesting to see what part the world media, particularly the Western media, played in how events were orchestrated for the world to see. All in all, very interesting but not one I'd read a second time. I would read other books by this journalist perviously from the Globe & Mail.One question that still comes to my mind is how has this history affected all the Chinese who have been coming to live in Canada in such great numbers. Do they bear the scars, and if so, what scars!

  • Karen
    2019-06-29 11:08

    "A month after my worker-peasant-soldier class graduated, the Chinese Communist Party formally declared an end to the Cultural Revolution.... I felt betrayed, like the victim of a massive practical joke.... But from here on in, I promised myself, I would question everything. I wouldn't just listen to what people said, I would observe what they did and their body language while they did it." pg. 185 "For generations, Chinese society had emphasized the family, the clan, the collective over the individual. Now, for the first time in four thousand years of history, the relationship was reversed. Pampered onlies (single children in a family) were growing up to be self-centered, strong-willed, knife-wielding individualists like, well, Americans." pg. 384 This book was written by a Canadian of Chinese-descent who went to school in communist China because she felt it was the best government and she wanted to be a part of it. She quickly learned otherwise, and documented her experiences in this book. She was a journalist, and because she "looked" Chinese, she was privy to many people and situations that were closed to the western world. Jan Wong has a delightful writing style with quick wit and humor. For example, when she returned to China with her husband and two sons to write as a foreign correspondent, she describes her home thus: "We lived in a brand-new diplomatic compound of an architectural style best described as Post-Stalinist Instant Decrepitude." I appreciated the sense that even though lots of mistakes were made and tragedies occurred, there is still much good and plenty to hope for in modern China.

  • Diana
    2019-06-28 09:00

    Jan Wong’s grandparents immigrated to Canada from China. Her father was a successful restaurant owner in Montreal. When Jan graduated from high school at the age of seventeen, she was looking for another way of life other than democracy partly because of the Vietnam War and the Kent State confrontation in the United States. She was enchanted with Maoism and Communist China where all people were purported to be seen as equals. She travelled to China where she, along with a young Chinese American woman, insisted on taking part in the Cultural Revolution which included living and working like the Chinese people. They attended Beijing University, labored in the fields, and did other physical work while reading and studying Communist handbooks. Her detailed story paints a vivid picture of life during the Cultural Revolution. Later, she married the only American Vietnam draft dodger to seek asylum in China. After becoming disillusioned with the Chinese way of life, they returned to the West where she worked as a journalist. In the 1980’s, they returned to China where she wrote about life in China which included a detailed chronicling of the Tiananmen Square uprising. Eventually, she and her family moved to Canada. It’s a well chronicled memoir of life in a complex country which explores the Chinese way of life and reminds the reader of China's more “recent” history. Her writing style, flow of language, and candid account kept me engaged throughout the book. There is no doubt this book made a bigger impact on me than any other book I ever remember reading.

  • Melissa
    2019-07-07 05:04

    Jan Wong has written a fascinating memoir about her experiences in China. She visited first in 1972 as the Maoist Cultural Revolution was in full swing. She had become an adherent to Maoism after seeing corruption and discrimination in the West. While in China, she was one of two westerners to attend Beijing University while it was under the control of Madame Mao. After living in China for several years Wong became disillusioned with Mao philosophy and sought to become a reporter. As a reporter Wong saw first hand the Tiananmen Square massacre. In the years following she met with many famous dissidents and civil rights activists in China and shares their stories.I appreciate Wong’s courageous honesty. She admits to “snitching” on two people to the Communist Party. She said she thought it was the right thing to do at the time, following that with, “May God forgive me, I don’t believe those I reported ever will” [my paraphrase].This book gave me a clearer picture of China’s recent history. Wong has a fascinating perspective, with her mix of Western/Eastern background. My takeaway: Extreme adversity just shows what is really inside a person. Whether someone is heroic, cowardly, loving, tough, selfish or selfless; a difficult time will display their character for all to see.

  • Sarah Wiley
    2019-07-13 08:51

    Jan Wong is both a journalist and a storyteller, thus this book manages to provide a factual history of China in the late 20th century while also weaving together an extraordinary memoir of Wong's experiences in China during this period. I think that this is the perfect book for a Western audience, in particular an audience that is trying to understand the allure of Maoism. Wong explains to the reader, in a very human way, the hopes and dreams of Maoists and how that dream fell apart for so many. My one concern with her writing was how frequently she emphasized her youthful naiveté, as if paranoid that she could be accused of regime-endorsement in the present day. I'd rather live the story with her, experiencing naiveté right along with her as she trumpets the superiority of the Chinese system in the beginning, and then see my delusions gradually shatter as Wong is witness to the hypocrisy, corruption, and violence that came to define the PRC's political system. The book had me in tears at times, and in fits of laughter at others, which pretty accurately matches the bipolar emotions that I felt during the year that I lived in China. Criticism aside, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone, because it was highly informative and a truly enjoyable read.

  • Richard
    2019-06-24 10:09

    An interesting and quick read in which a Canadian-Chinese decides to go to China in the early 70s to join the revolution.While in China, the author insist that she perform manual labor (haul pig manure) like the rest of the Chinese people in order to cleanse her of her western thoughts. As the years slip by her she begins to realize that the Communist Government is not what she thought it was, or should be. She was in essence young, naive and idealistic about Communist China.I found the last 1/3 of the memoir to be quite surprising as she wrote about the Tiananmen Square Massacre as a returning journalist for a western newspaper. I know very little about the event until I read this book. For example, that the PLA shoot people in the back as they were fleeing. The internal struggles w/n the government on how to deal with the demonstration.Finally, she writes that even though China embraces capitalism, that there is still inequality and poverty in China especially the rural areas. This is an excellent history book in understanding China from the late 60s to present. In the end found the book sometimes funny, poignant, utterly ridiculous, and sad...

  • Becky Lai
    2019-07-20 12:05

    One of the best books I've ever read. It was long (I read it on Kindle and didn't realize what I was getting myself into until partway in) but that's partly why it's so good. For one, the author is a great storyteller. The descriptions are not overly dramatic -- even in moments that would warrant it. There's always a hint of an amused smirk behind much of the writing as well as moments of heart wrenching anger, frustration and disappointment. It's hard to do both of those things well. On a personal note, this book has filled a gap in my knowledge that as a Chinese American I have had for too long. This book made me proud of my heritage in ways I've never been before -- as well as understand the pain and burden of the Cultural Revolution, beyond just the massacre at Tiananmen Square. I was also constantly amazed at the author's unique, first hand access to so much of it. It was such a neat opportunity to see China "grow up" alongside the confusing and at times windy development and coming of age of a young Chinese woman. I need to take a break from reading Chinese history but this book has certainly wet my appetite for more.