One Country, Two Prisms

Bruce Gilley ("In China's Own Eyes," September/October 2005) is correct that my biography, The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin, portrays Jiang as he might see himself. My intention (as stated in the book itself, on pages 691-92) was to move beyond all the hype and bias about China so as to understand how Chinese leaders think.

But Gilley's review is weighted with conspiracy theory. He asserts that "Jiang chose Kuhn," "a secret state propaganda team oversaw the writing of the book," and that I had a "Chinese collaborator."

The truth is almost the reverse.

Jiang didn't choose me; I chose Jiang. The book was my idea; I planned it, financed it, and wrote it to trace China's story through eight tumultuous decades of trauma and transformation. I had help -- translators, researchers, editors -- but I maintained absolute editorial control and made every editorial decision, and no one in China ever thought otherwise.

How did I get my interviews? I had a track record in China before I began writing: I had advised China's government, without compensation, on science, the media, and mergers and acquisitions for a decade. Furthermore, as Gilley recognizes, science and business resonate with China's leaders -- my education was in science (I have a Ph.D. in anatomy and brain research), and my career and previous writings have been in investment banking and corporate strategy.

Gilley charges that "the book's main intended market was China itself." Everyone involved knows this is false. My 2002 deal with Random House called for publication in English, German, Japanese, and Korean; a Chinese edition would be published in Hong Kong. In 2004, the Random House catalog was posted online, and mainland publishers contacted us. We selected one in September, but authorization was not granted until just before publication in February 2005.

Distracted by conspiracy theories, Gilley misses the big story of my book's publication in China. My rendition of events, such as the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia in 1999, differs markedly from that of the official Chinese media. In a publisher's note, Chinese readers are advised: "Certain viewpoints and opinions of the author, as a Westerner, bear a definite distance from those of our own. Hopefully the reader will understand."

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