January 17, 2011
China—powerful, expanding, and evolving—remains inscrutable to Westerners confounded by its contradictions, as well as the rapidity of its growth and the intensity of its repressive government. A child of the Cultural Revolution, Zha (China Pop) offers a nuanced and textured picture of a country constrained by totalitarianism but buoyed by the pioneering spirit and resilience of its people. The author observes a shift from a post-Tiananmen political idealism to a steely but hopeful pragmatism among many of her compatriots. It's a conflict that exists at the heart of Chinese contemporary culture, and one Zha illuminates through interviews with writers and academics dodging or suffering censorship, her own political dissident brother languishing in jail, or Zhang Dazhong, who, motivated by the political imprisonment of his mother, built a fortune and spent his life attempting to clear her name. Zha's effort is an honest and thoughtful portrait that forces outsiders to check their preconceptions at the door and see China as a convergence of passion and trauma, memory and hope.