Roger Garside, fluent in Chinese, was a British diplomat in Beijing during the upsurge of the democracy movement. He spent hundreds of hours at Democracy Wall when, for four months during the winter of 1978-79, young Chinese felt free to speak their minds, even to Westerners. What emerges is a widespread popular desire to free China from Soviet-style totalitarianism. Communist education and propaganda had clearly failed them: "Of the three panels of the Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought triptych, they rejected not only Mao's thoughts but also Lenin's, and the nature of their allegiance to Marx had been left very vague." Insofar as the socialist tradition applied, it was brought in to support the calls for democracy. The countries that appealed most to these Chinese youths were capitalist countries-and Yugoslavia. Garside also believes that "the reformers in the Chinese leadership today are not totalitarian either in their ambitions or in their methods." While this may be so, the question remains whether the obstacles to real reform in China may not prove insuperable, and whether all the leaders in post-Mao China are really "reformers." Yet despite all possible caveats, this is one of the most interesting books yet to emerge on the subject of what course post-Mao China will follow. In startling contrast, Orville Schell warns about the dangers for China in coming into too-close contact with the West; he seems to regret the passing of Mao's China where "they had no Hilton Hotels, no branches of the Chase Manhattan Bank. . . ."
Get the latest book reviews delivered to your inbox.