In This Review

One Billion: A China Chronicle
One Billion: A China Chronicle
By Jay and Linda Mathews
Random House, 1983, 383 pp
Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese
Broken Earth: The Rural Chinese
By Steven W. Mosher
Free Press, 1983, 336 pp

Both books portray a China with deep-rooted problems. The Mathews paint a picture of a nation low in morale, disillusioned with communism, and mired down in the most oppressive and inefficient bureaucracy on earth. Still, they see a China that is held together by its traditional culture, and they conclude that the new reforms have brought quick results of incalculable importance. But they do not develop this theme. Steven Mosher was one of the first Western anthropologists to be allowed unrestricted study in a rural village in southeast China, and his is one of the most revealing books on contemporary China yet published, sparking such controversy (and objections from the Chinese Government) that he was expelled from Stanford University. It offers a rich panorama of daily life in rural China and considerable insight into the rigid bureaucracy that is such a perennial obstacle to change. And it provides striking evidence of the extreme skepticism of many Chinese about the capacity of the Chinese Communist Party to modernize the country. It should be noted, however, that the agricultural reforms in China, which amount to a de facto decollectivization, are having a stunning impact on agricultural productivity; by not taking this sufficiently into account, both books may be excessively pessimistic.