Although the Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu has been unable to publish anything since his most recent detention, which began in late 2008, Link, his co-editors, and a superb group of translators have assembled an impressive sampling of Liu’s courageous and insightful writings from the past two decades in this remarkable, highly readable new book. Liu’s critical essays and moving prison poetry combine to form a fascinating portrait of China during a period of rapid development and political change. If there was ever any doubt that Liu deserved the Peace Prize, this book erases it.
In addition to Liu’s penetrating dissections of China’s inscrutable one-party state, the book includes the full text of “Charter 08,” the now-famous manifesto that led to his current 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” These, along with Liu’s memorable trial statements, make clear why the Communist Party believes his peaceful words are so dangerous. The book also includes Liu’s lesser-known but equally important critiques of U.S.-Chinese relations and reflections on Chinese society and culture, including a particularly vivid essay on the commercialization and sexualization of Chinese life and the impact of those changes on politics and morality. Neither China specialists nor newcomers will soon forget this powerful book. Unfortunately, the Chinese people will not get to read it, since Liu’s work has long been banned in China.