Behind the Forbidden Door: Travels in Unknown China

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Behind the Forbidden Door: Travels in Unknown China

By Tiziano Terzani
Henry Holt, 1986
270 pp. $17.95

This volume is a somber corrective to much of the current reporting about China. Written by an Italian journalist fluent in Chinese who lived in Beijing for four years before being expelled, it describes the increasing power of the police, the ingrained habits of secrecy, the elaborate surveillance system for controlling the population, and the forced isolation of all Westerners living in China. Terzani's children, writing about their experiences in a Chinese school, complain that at the end of three years "we did not have a single Chinese friend." Teachers kept their "foreign influence" as far away from the Chinese students as they could. Not a single conversation could go much beyond greetings. This and other essays in the book provide eye-opening details about many aspects of contemporary Chinese life that are usually hidden from tourists and other outsiders.

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