©2008 Chaozhu Ji; (P)2008 Tantor
"A true 'fly-on-the-wall' account of the momentous changes in Chinese society and international relations over the last century." (Kirkus)
I teach modern Chinese history to high school students and this audiobook has been very helpful in understanding this chapter in China's history. The unique perspective of the author's time in America as a college student and his eventual return to Beijing gives a nuanced, informative outlook that illuminates the 100 Flowers Bloom movement, the Great Leap Forward (Backward, really), and the intensity and insanity of the Cultural Revolution. Very engaging to listen to on my commute every day.
This is one of the best books I've ever "read." The reader butchers some of the Chinese names a bit, but the story is absolutely gripping. I've read a lot of books about China and this might be the best.
I've been a member since 10/07 and have heard (read) over 30 books since then. The overwhelming majority have been of the non-fiction, historical type. That being said, I just finished a few days with this one and, for the 1st time, went directly to my computer to write this review. This is an absolutely amazing book. It is well-written (after all, the author went to Harvard, not me), well-narrated, and this is an exceptional story. I can't recommend this one highly enough.....it is the best one I've experienced. Get it!
This is the memoir of someone who worked in the Chinese foreign service during and after the Mao era, and still resides in China with his family. The result is a book that gives a moderate version of the official Communist Party story of Chinese history and diplomacy in the 20th century.
Someone who doesn't know much about recent Chinese history would probably learn quite a bit. The book would be especially helpful for someone who couldn't imagine why the Chinese government joined the Korean War, or why Taiwan has been made such an issue--and why most people in China agree with the government position on these topics. As someone already quite familiar with the history, I didn't get any new information from this book.
The author's description of his personal experiences are rather monotonous, without much reflection or psychological detail. Expect to spend a lot of time hearing about the health problems of every member of his family. His political insights are limited to categorizing all the people he discusses as either good (Zhou Enlai, Peng Dehuai, Deng Xiaoping) or bad (Mao, the Gang of Four, and their supporters), and so he explains political events by attributing them to whether the "good" or "bad" people happened to be in control of government at that time. This was much too simplistic for me to feel that the book had deepened my understanding of how the tumultuous politics of the Mao years really worked.
The narrator made some effort to learn how to pronounce Chinese, so about half the names came out fairly well (except for the tones), and half are mangled. This is still better than most audiobooks on China.
We listened to this during a trip to China, and it helped us understand some of the politics behind this incredible country, both good and bad. A definite must for those who want to see many sides of the story into what it was like to live in Mao's China.
This is a great book. I enjoyed learning about China through the balanced perspective of someone who obviously has a great deal of love for both the US and China, as well as someone who has held many important positions in the Chinese government.
One letdown is the lack of serious reflection about the events of Tiananmen Square. Still, there are many things about recent Chinese history that I did not know before listening to this book, such as the attempted assassination of Premiere Zhou Enlai by US backed Taiwanese forces.
Overall an intriguing story, well told!
Husband, father, building contractor, inventor and audio book lover.
This man lived through some of the most hair raising situations. His life, in and out of China is an amazing ride through the highest peaks and the deepest valleys. The fact that he did not give up is a testament to his will and patience. He does very little editorializing and allows the reader and history to make the judgements about all sides. I came away with not only a better understanding of China but also of our governments actions over the last 50 or so years. If you want to know where our world is going, especially with regard to China, this is a must read. Highly recommended.
I am a lover of good stories, a mom, a wife, and an educator.
I so thoroughly enjoyed the story of this man's life and times that I would sometimes forget "the source." The story of Ji's life in America and his eventual return to China and rise to high office within China's foreign ministry was fascinating. Ji Chaozhu criticized communist China just enough to make it believable, and did not skirt the issues of his own suffering, though I expect it was far greater than he described. Within the story, he deified Zhou Enlai and disparaged Mao, which would be the acceptable rhetoric for a good cadre of that time and place.
It is worth noting that he is a communist through-and-through and this is probably the most interesting aspect of the book. I believe that his devotion to China and the party were (for the most part, or at least in the beginning) sincere. He spoke as a Chinese citizen would only dare speak on the world stage--carefully and reverently about his homeland, the Party, and the leadership. Even so, the story of his life, the historical figures who cross his path, and the events from his perspective were exciting to observe. I highly recommend this book, though one must listen through the veil of communist rhetoric.
A fascinating account of the rise and reform of the communist movement in China from the inside. It is written from the point of view of a Chinese official who became more and more concerned about the direction Mao was taking the country. As an American, I don't agree with everything in the book. Any westerner who wants to understand modern China should get this book.
interested in history, science, and pulp fiction
I found this book to be enchanting. I couldn't put it down. My tween son is listening right now, even. Ji Chaozhu is certainly a witness to history, but he is also clearly a thoughtful, self-deprecating, charming person and an eloquent writer. Ji's vivid storytelling takes us to Manhattan and Harvard in the 1930's and 40's, sharing details of his playful and humorous boyhood that show his deep connections with the U.S. Ji goes through many highs and lows as the political winds change throughout the decades, for sure, but he maintains an optimism and a faith in the overall project of Communism that is weirdly refreshing.
In Norman Dietz's performance, I grew to love my one-sided conversations with "Little Ji." We disagreed on many things (Ji complains of being treated as a spy in America when, in fact, his father and brother were spies in America, for example), and we part company regarding the incidents of Tiananmen Square (Ji could not seem to fathom why people would complain "now," when finally things were better than they ever were). But I think you will enjoy the repartee. And it will shed light on the stature Premier Zhou En-Lai has in China, as the years go by.
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