The Party is Just Getting Started

Notes on the Nineteenth Party Congress – by Jude Blanchette

In August 1980, Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader until his death in 1997, addressed an enlarged session of the Political Bureau (Politburo) of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Central Committee. Having just emerged from the wreckage of the ten-year Cultural Revolution in 1976, China was plagued with what the Party’s aging Marxist revolutionaries liked to call “contradictions.”

For Deng, four such challenges confronted the Party and the political system it dominated:

Chinese Corner

What About Tones?

How not to be tone deaf when speaking Mandarin – by Liz Carter

Many people are intimidated by the prospect of learning Chinese because it is a tonal language – the same syllable, pronounced differently, can mean a number of totally different things. Tackling Chinese may seem impossible, especially for the less than musically inclined, if perfect pitch is presumed to be a prerequisite.

However, tones are more of a speed bump than a brick wall. And the trouble with tones can best be tackled by breaking it down into three issues: whether it is feasible to learn tones; whether it is important; and how it can be done.

Staff Picks

Introducing Staff Picks

Our miscelleneous recommendations – a new occasional feature

Linda Jaivin’s The Monkey and the Dragon: A True Story About Friendship, Music, Politics and Life on the Edge (Text Publishing, September 2000), which straddles the line between memoir and biography, is by an author who is nothing if not versatile: Jaivin translates Chinese literature, pens commentaries on cultural issues, and writes novels with titles like Rock n Roll Babes from Outer Space. The book focuses on Hou Dejian, a folk singer who moved from Taiwan to the mainland in the 1980s and later became, as Jaivin puts it, the first straits-crossing gadfly figure to be “returned to sender” by the Chinese authorities. It’s a rollicking read that, among other things, has a long section on the 1989 movement.


Chairman Mao Is Dead!

A personal history by Tang Danhong – translated by Anne Henochowicz

When Chairman Mao died, I was looking at caterpillars.

Here's what was going on when it happened: every summer break, my terrifying father went to the Aba Valley to collect botanical specimens and research the cultivation of the native yellow Himalayan fritillary. It was just my mother and me at home. As my parents used to say, when the cat’s away, the mice come out to play. I always liked summer best, but that summer was especially great, because everywhere it was all about the earthquake. Everyone was anxious. An “earth wind” even tore through Chengdu, and we all had to move into earthquake tents. So kids all sat around waiting for the ground to move, not wanting to miss the chance for a good show. Finally the earthquake came to Songpan and Pingwu, and then the earth winds were done, and it was decided that all the children “might as well” be moved back into their houses. They wailed, “That was it? We didn’t even feel anything!”