Friday, June 04, 2010

Out of Mao's Shadow

Philip Pan's Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China (Paperback) is an excellent read. He investigates China's current handling of issues like free speech, rural taxation, displacing hutong dwellers in Beijing and honoring those who died during the Cultural Revolution by looking at the work of brave individuals. Each chapter follows a person who has dedicated himself (yeah, it's mainly men here) to righting a particular wrong. Thus readers learn of a documentary filmmaker who worked for years on a film about a young woman who was imprisoned and executed during the 1970s, a blind human rights attorney who fights for fair implementation of the one child policy, and a man who succeeded in protecting a cemetery for those who died during the Cultural Revolution. (The local government wanted to turn it into a parking lot.)

The book is well researched. Philip Pan was a Washington Post reporter in China for many years and got good access to his subjects. Learning about China's current issues through the lives of brave individuals is a powerful way to learn about the country.

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