From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Born in 1929 China to a privileged family of Communist sympathizers, Chaozhu has witnessed a country transform while catapulting to its newly-emergent centers of power. Chaozhu's memoir begins during the 1937 Japanese occupation, when his father sent him and his brothers to the U.S. to help raise money for the communists and get "a first-class education," after which they would return to "help build the new China." Returning to China in 1950, after dropping out of Harvard, Chaozhu began working as an interpreter in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, before rising to become a deputy director. After Nixon's ground-breaking 1972 visit to China, Chaozhu had several postings to the U.S. and was appointed as an Ambassador to the U.K. His last position was a 1991-94 stint as under-secretary-general of the United Nations. Chaozhu paints a vivid picture of life in China, both the extreme poverty (by 1958, 30 million Chinese had starved to death) and the civil unrest generated by Mao's draconian economic measures and purges of so-called dissidents. Chaozhu describes hard times but also exciting, eye-witness to history stories featuring Kissinger's and Nixon's first meetings with Enlai. This absorbing book should make an invaluable political (and personal) primer for anyone dealing with today's China.
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To Westerners, the actions of the Chinese government since the 1948 Communist triumph are often confusing and seemingly contradictory. So an account by a Chinese insider is to be highly valued, even if it must be viewed with a critical eye and a healthy dose of skepticism. Chaozhu was born in China but fled to the U.S. as a youth when the Japanese invaded. He was educated at Harvard but returned to China, where his knowledge of the West and his mastery of English led him to a variety of high governmental posts in the Foreign Ministry, including acting as Chairman Mao’s interpreter. Chaozhu describes some of the key events in recent Chinese history with a curious detachment, including the violent collectivization movement and the Cultural Revolution. Chaozhu’s greatest admiration and affection is reserved for Premier Zho Enlai, whom Ji describes as sensible, tolerant, and blessed with the warmth and compassion that Mao seemed to lack. Although there are few startling revelations, this is a useful account of some of the inner workings and conflicts within China’s ruling elite. --Jay Freeman