The Chinese

Jasper Becker, Author Free Press $27.5 (480p) ISBN 978-0-684-84412-1
In this ambitious work, Becker, a veteran chronicler of China (Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine), explores the impact that a quarter-century of economic reform has had upon the Chinese people. In a wise attempt to avoid generalizationsDall too easy to use when writing of a population of 1.25 billion peopleDBecker reports on how the various sectors of Chinese society have fared. He is after contrast, not continuity, conundrums rather than convenient answers, and he succeeds admirably. While entrepreneurs in China's coastal cities grow wealthy, he explains, millions of peasants in the hinterland remain mired in the deepest poverty. While privileged Communist Party members parlay their positions into lucrative business deals, countless numbers of laid-off state industrial workers fear for the future. Farming communities battle, usually unsuccessfully, against corrupt local officials who are taxing them into ruin; intellectuals battle with themselves over whether to ally with the regime or defy it. And over it all preside the elite few at the very top of the Party, aloof, out of touch, and determined to remain in power by any means necessary. Becker's stories, and the wealth of data and historical references he also provides, support his contention that, while the market may have made China richer, it has not necessarily made it a fairer or more just society; there may be more losers than winners in China's race toward wealth. (Dec. 8)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-19-514940-1
Hardcover - 480 pages - 978-0-7195-6036-1
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