Philip Pan, the former Beijing correspondent for the Washington Post, has written a remarkable new book, “Out of Mao’s Shadow: The Struggle for the Soul of a New China” in which he profiles a disparate group of Chinese citizens who are, in their own way, trying to bring positive change to their country. The book starts with the dramatic story of Lin Zhao, a passionate critic of Mao’s revolution who was sentenced to death for her outspokenness. Pan brings the story into the present by following Hu Jie, a documentary filmmaker who went to extraordinary lengths to uncover Lin Zhao’s story on film. Several of the other characters in the book – of blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng, journalist Cheng Yizhong, labor activists Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang, and others – will be familiar to many readers from reports in the western media. But in his book, Pan digs deeper into their stories to present a much more nuanced and complex portrait of their struggles, challenges and successes. In the Washington Post, Andrew Nathan wrote, “Out of Mao’s Shadow is a work of reporting, but it is also a work of conscience.”
CDT recently asked Philip Pan some questions about Out of Mao’s Shadow and his work in China. Pan responded by email from Moscow, where he recently moved to cover Russia for the Post:
China Digital Times: The individuals you profile in the book are, on the surface, very different, yet they are all dedicated to bringing change to China. Out of all the stories you could have told, how did you decide who to profile?
Philip Pan: I tried to pick a group of individuals who represented different facets of the struggle for the country’s future. But I also wanted to focus on people who were at the
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