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Out of Mao's Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China Hardcover – June 17, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

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“What freedom the Chinese people now enjoy has come only because individuals have demanded and fought for it, and because the party has retreated in the face of such pressure,” Pan writes. The dream of a completely free society, however, has not yet accompanied a free marketâ€"despite the growing efforts of everyday men and women fighting the system. Through detailed and illuminating interviews with artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and peasants, Pan reveals a country filled with local government corruption, human rights violations, and collusion between the Party and the private sector. While Pan’s exposé on China left a few critics feeling hopeless, most took away a more optimistic message about China’s future. In either event, they agreed that Out of Mao’s Shadow achieves “the immediacy of first-rate reportage and the emotional depth of field of a novel” (New York Times).
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

From Booklist

How is the world’s most populous and emerging global power managing to counterbalance the freedoms of capitalism—and the Internet age—against the continued restrictions of authoritarianism? For seven years, Pan, former Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post, traveled China and talked to officials, journalists, artists, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens to get a portrait of an extraordinary time in that nation’s—and the world’s—history. Pan begins by examining how the Chinese are preserving their most recent history of fighting resistance to authoritarianism, including a young entrepreneur’s account of openly defying the police by attending the funeral of Chinese official Zhao Ziyang, who was sympathetic to the Tiananmen Square protest 15 years earlier. Pan goes on to explore how the Communist Party has evolved since the death of Mao, including recollections of factory workers who have not benefited from the new emphasis on capitalism and tycoons who are thriving. Finally, Pan presents the perspective of Chinese with hopes for a democratic future in China, even as that nation struggles to reconcile its past and future ambitions and its place in the broader world. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (June 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416537058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416537052
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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82 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas MacDonald on June 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an American living in Shanghai, I've been impressed by the freedom that many people seem to enjoy here. Contrary to the Cultural Revolution, "RED COMMUNIST CHINA" image that many Americans have, the people of the middle classes in the huge coastal metropoli of this country live lives little different from those of their peers in the west, at least on the surface. The young people I meet scoff at the Little Red Book and the patriotic posturing of the Communist Party; they tend to be as cynical about politics as Americans, if not moreso. At the same time, however, there is a detectable current of discontent lurking below the surface.

Phillip Pan's "Out of Mao's Shadow" blows the lid off this discontent and reveals the dynamics of law and power in China's contemporary civil society. He shows a country that has left behind totalitarian ideology and control and replaced it with an elaborate system of amoral authoritarian gangsterism. Behind such catchphrases as Deng's "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics", Jiang's "Three Represents", and Hu's "Scientific Development Perspective", there's little true substance other than a massive kleptocracy's attempt to get rich quick off of exports and labor exploitation, or so Pan contends. At the same time, however, there is a growing middle class civil society- lawyers, journalists, filmmakers, bloggers, labor organizers, environmental activists, artists, and other troublemakers quietly pushing for change in a rapidly changing and increasingly liberal society.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Peking Duck on August 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the most unforgettable scene in the movie Alien, hands-down the greatest science fiction movie ever made, is the attempt by the fast-disappearing crew to resurrect the decapitated robot, Ash, whom they beg for an answer to their simple question:

Ripley: How do we kill it, Ash? There's gotta be a way of killing it. How, how do we do it?

Ash: You can't... You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? A perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.

Lambert: You admire it?

Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

This unforgettable episode kept replaying in the back on my mind as I read through Philp Pan's unforgettable new masterpiece, Out of Mao's Shadow. This is a book about heroes, about the brave souls in China who dare to stand up to one of the world's most formidable political machines, the Chinese Communist Party. We know one thing in advance: none of them will win. Some do indeed make a huge difference, and nudge the monster toward reform, usually by raising public awareness. But they cannot beat the party. The party will always win. It is too perfect, too self-protective and self-sustaining to tolerate defeat, and it knows no sense of morality or conscience.

A fluent Chinese speaker and former Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post, Pan has won the confidence of these people and, often at considerable personal risk, takes us into their homes, into their lives to give us an intimate portrayal of what they do and why they do it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Osberg on September 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A mix of history and political analysis from a region and period in which records are systematically destroyed, and authors like Pan are fighting to preserve the truth.
The book paints a picture of a modern Orwellian state, describing, in detail, the contortionist social policies of a communist party that managed to cling to power long after communism became internationally discredited.
For example: the distortion of language for propaganda, the exploitation of nationalism, the systematic partitioning of farmers and peasants away from the central power structures, and the kidnap and remorseless torture of dissidents; Pan lifts all of these elements from the pages of '1984' and moves them to the non-fiction section with this expose'.
The story is also predictive. Pan casts serious doubt on the hopeful -possibly naive- assumption that capitalism will inevitably democratize China. Pan describes modern life in China as more free than it has ever been, though the story he tells is still draconian by most western standards, and his work gives good reason for the rest of the world to be gravely concerned about the future of world's next superpower.
At the same time, however, a powerful human element is brought to the fore: Pan interviews ordinary and extraordinary citizens and shows how the pain and despair of the last 5 decades, on both the individual and social scale, have led to a culture of citizens disengaged from politics.
Pan provides a scathing indictment of the officials and opportunists who exploit the status quo, but also a tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the few people willing to challenge the system; the painful decisions they make and the prices they pay are both inspiring and heartbreaking.
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