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Red China Blues: My Long March From Mao to Now Paperback – May 19, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This superb memoir is like no other account of life in China under both Mao and Deng. Wong is a Canadian ethnic Chinese who, in 1972, at the height of the cultural revolution, was one of the first undergraduate foreigners permitted to study at Beijing University. Filled with youthful enthusiasms for Mao's revolution, she was an oddity: a Westerner who embraced Maoism, appeared to be Chinese and wished to be treated as one, although she didn't speak the language. She set herself to become fluent, refused special consideration, shared her fellow-students rations and housing, their required stints in industry and agriculture and earnestly tried to embrace the Little Red Book. Although Wong felt it her duty to turn in a fellow student who asked for help to emigrate to the West, she could not repress continual shock at conditions of life, and by the time she was nearly expelled from China for an innocent friendship with a "foreigner," much of her enthusiasm, which lasted six years, had eroded. In 1988, returning as a reporter for the Toronto Globe Mail, she was shocked once again, this time by the rapid transformations of the society under Deng's exhortation: "to be rich is glorious." Her account is informed by her special background, a cold eye, a detail. Her description of the events at Tiananmen Square, which occurred on her watch, is, like the rest of the book, unique, powerful and moving.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

" 'Tis better to have believed and lost than never to have believed at all." Concluding her memoir with a paraphrase from Tennyson,Wong vividly describes her 12-year experience in China. At first, as a confused teenager coming of age amid the tumultuous late Sixties and early Seventies in Canada, she became a devoted Maoist, believing China to be "Paradise." She studied and worked in China for six years as an ordinary citizen, going through the Cultural Revolution and the period of the "Gang of Four." Later, as a reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail, she spent another six years in China, witnessing the Tiananmen massacre, interviewing important dissidents such as Wei Jingsheng and Ren Wanding, and reporting on issues such as birth control and peasant riots in rural areas. The "insider" status gives her account a unique touch that set hers apart from numerous other "journalistic" writings about China. She is describing the people she knows and the events she experienced. Highly recommended.
Mark Meng, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 19, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385482329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385482325
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Jan Wong was the first of only two Westerners to study in China during the Cultural Revolution, a tale she recounts in her memoir, Red China Blues, My Long March from Mao to Now. Named one of Time magazines top ten books of 1996, Red China Blues remains banned in China.

Jan is a third-generation Canadian who grew up in Montreal speaking English and French. In the summer of 1972, while majoring in Asian studies at McGill University, she traveled alone to the People's Republic of China. There, she talked her way into a spot at Beijing University. She became fluent in Mandarin as a result of being the one and only student of a humorless Communist Party official (whom she nicknamed Fu the Enforcer.) On Saturday afternoons, as part of Chairman Mao's Revolution-in-Education Movement, Jan also dug ditches, hauled pig manure and harvested wheat, shoulder to shoulder with her Chinese roommate, Scarlet.

Later, as a foreign correspondent based in Beijing for six years, Jan was an eyewitness to the 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square.

She began her journalism career in 1979 as a news assistant for The New York Times in Beijing where she reported on Democracy Wall and the beginnings of dissent in China. She was a staff reporter at The Gazette in Montreal, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail. For six years, she wrote about celebrities in her weekly column, "Lunch With Jan Wong". She is a recipient of the George Polk Award in the U.S., a National Newspaper Award in Canada, the New England Press Association Newswoman of the Year Award, the Stanley MacDowell Prize for Writing, the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Silver Medal and the Daily Bread Food Bank Public Education Award, among other honors.

Jan has degrees from McGill University (honors history) and Beijing University (Chinese history). She also has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Her other non-fiction books are:

Jan Wong's China, Reports from a Not-So-Foreign Correspondent
Lunch With Jan Wong, Sweet and Sour Celebrity Interviews
Beijing Confidential, A Tale of Comrades Lost and Found*

Her latest book, Out of the Blue, a Memoir of Loss, Recovery, Renewal and, Yes, Happiness, will be published in 2011. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two sons. She has taught journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto. In Fall 2010, she will be the Visiting Irving Chair of Journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

*Beijing Confidential is published as:

*Chinese Whispers, A Journey Into Betrayal in the UK
A Comrade Lost and Found, A Beijing Story in the US
Pechino Confidential, La rivoluzione culturale e la scomoda eredita maoista in un toccante viaggio nel cuore della nuova Citta Proibita in Italy
Beijing Confidential, Lost and Found in the Forbidden City in Australia and N.Z.
Pékin Confidentiel in France

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 121 people found the following review helpful By histbuff on January 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
I should start with why I like and recommend this book. Jane Wong tells a fascinating story, and I found this book to be extremely hard to put down. Her descriptions of life in China during the latter part of the cultural revolution, the gradual reopening of the country following Mao's death, and the crackdown at Tiananmen are first rate, emotionally powerful, and give you a sense of what it would have felt like to "be there" during those momentous events in recent Chinese history. I almost didn't read this book because I have read so many other books on China over the past years (in addition to a brief visit and many conversations with Chinese friends) that I didn't think this one would have much to offer. I couldn't have been more wrong. I would rate this book in the top two, along with Steven Mosher's "Broken Earth; The Rural Chinese".
My disappointment with the book is due to the remarkable lack of depth in Jane's own spiritual journey. I was surprised to learn that she never really breaks with Mao. In the final scene of the book she is at a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Mao's birth, wearing a Mao button and nostalgically singing the Internationale (she explainst that the communist anthem is still one of her favorite songs). While vacuously deceptive, the book's subtitle "My Long March from Mao to Now" is technically accurate; time did pass, Mao died, and she, like China, has changed. However, "My Long March from Mao to... a Little Less Mao" would be more descriptive.
Perhaps because she hasn't rejected Mao, she approaches the many forms of oppression in today's China not as vestiges of the Maoist system, but as creations of the new one. It is as if the opening of the curtains had created the stage, instead of revealing it.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Phillippa Crossan on December 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
What a fascinating book! I loved it. It is a wonderful piece of writing and it's easy to see why Jan Wong is such an acclaimed journalist.
I have been to China and have many friends from there. From everything they have shared with me regarding their own experiences, Red China Blues fits exactly with their descriptions of life in those times. Having been born in 1948 and lived under far different circumstances, I find the history of China during the Mao years fascinating. Red China Blues rings true and it is written with wicked humour as well as much sympathy/empathy. Jan Wong has heart and her account of the Tienanmen Square massacre is the most moving I have ever read. I believe it is a totally accurate account and I found myself weeping as I read it. I was profoundly moved and gained a much deeper insight of the events that took place at that time. In fact, I learned many things about China through this marvellous book and was hungry for more. I couldn't put it down and can't wait to read her latest, Jan Wong's China which I have just purchased.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By LuelCanyon on September 2, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jan Wong, Chinese-Canadian journalist, has written a sterling book full of compassion, hard choices, and a great deal of soul-searching. Wong's romance with Mao's virgin communism leads her from an already exceptional life in Canada to China, to Beijing University, through the anguish of the Great Cultural Revolution, and safely out the other side. Much more enjoyable a read than "Born Red", yet not as pungent as Anchee Min's "Red Azalea", "Red China Blues" (great title!) definitely stands out among the dozens of books of reminiscences by those who survived Mao's disastrous final years. It's indeed interesting in reading these various accounts of life in Mao's China, especially through the Cultural Revolution, that we are being given so many irreplaceable glances into that woeful time, each new book providing some important new angle of understanding. Wong is clearly a first-rate journalist, the prose is succinct, heartfelt, and balanced. Lots of informative and thoughtful snapshots are included as well- Wong, her friends, some of the people who figure prominently during her sojourn in her ancestral land. A beautifully finished chronicle of a hair-raising adventure by a woman of tremendous courage, humor, and talent. I enjoyed every bit of it!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By fdoamerica on June 1, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Nothing is at it seems. Jan Wong, a teenager during the Vietnam era, was dissatisfied with capitalistic Canada and radically sought change. For Wong the truth was to be found in Mao's 'little Red Book' and her reading room was to be China.
Looking back twenty-five years and with 20/20 hindsight, Jan Wong takes us into the dragon's lair revealing both her youth's ideology and Mao's China gone by. For many who remember the 60's and early 70's you will understand how she could turn her back on the comfort and freedoms of her home in Canada, renouncing all, and go to live in Mao's China. For fourteen years, with a religious, fanatical devotion, Jan Wong dedicated her life to become a missionary of Mao.
Her red world crashed around her in 1976, the year when the cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao died.. All of her sacrifice, all of the suffering she went through as a worker-peasant were for naught, as China drastically discarded Mao's ideology and moved towards a hybrid capitalistic communism. She felt betrayed, suckered and stupid, "I vowed I would never again suspend my disbelief. I promised myself I would question everything. I became a skeptic."
Her opportunity to question everything came when the New York Times hired her as a Journalist in its Beijing office.
Jan Wong's on site coverage of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 2600 Chinese citizen's in 1989 stands out as one of the best on site reports I have read on the subject. Even Mao, in his 40 years of rule, did not turn tanks on his own people, but Deng Xiaping slaughtered his own people to keep his grip on Communist power. She writes, "The guns at Tiananmen Square killed my last illusions about China."
This book is a must read for anyone traveling to China today. It does more to help you understand the current history than a dozen guide books will.
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