Discos and Democracy

Orville Schell, Author Pantheon Books $19.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-394-56829-4
What China-watcher could have foreseen, only a few years ago, that the country would move from militant communist orthodoxy to an apparent headlong race toward capitalism? Schell (To Get Rich Is Glorious) spent a year in China to discover whether this metamorphosis is real or yet another mirage on the shifting sands of Chinese politics. Certainly, signs of a new spirit are everywhere. Schell recounts that free enterprise in Shanghai has skyrocketed, with a growth rate of 500%; stock exchanges have opened in several cities. And even Mao's guarantee of lifelong employment, the so-called Iron Rice Bowl policy, is beginning to rust as poorly performing workers are laid off. The lure of the forbiddenWestern culture with its glitzy array of movies, rock music, electronic equipment, high fashionis proving irresistible as many Chinese become disco devotees and eager consumers. Even such basic Western ideals as democracy are having an impact, especially among intellectuals and artists. But although the work ethic is rooted in Chinese tradition, independent thought and democratic participation emphatically are not. With the future still uncertain, Schell provides a clear, intelligent study of a society torn between a stagnating revolution and a newborn dynamism. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 05/01/1988
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-0-385-26187-6
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