Paul Mason’s Top 10 Books About China
The story starts with a group of British journalists trying to film a report on the Chinese government’s ‘fight against environmental depredation’. Destined for a short slot in a programme sponsored by the government, it is not supposed to be critical. All their employers want is something pointing out the ‘new China’ for their coverage of the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Square. The journalists are being carefully escorted by their Chinese minder, Chun-Li, and everything is going to plan, until they end up by accident in the desert town of Tang Lu and get some film of residents complaining about the appalling environmental conditions. From there, it all starts to spiral out of control.
Mason, who also released the book Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions earlier this year, told The Guardian about 10 works from China’s recent literary history that have influenced his latest work:
“If you’re trying to understand China the language issues are secondary. The real problem is this is a country ruled through the suppression of historical memory. The Communists’ legitimacy rests on the claim that only stultifying bureaucracy and patriarchy can keep it together; that it is “not ready” for democracy; indeed that it was never ready.
“But delve into Chinese literature, and history, and a more much more complex picture emerges. After the May Fourth 1919 protests, the intelligentsia embraced modernity and fought for it. The early 20th century produced the Chinese Dickens and a whole legion of Orwells. The late 20th century produced a generation of novelists whose sufferings during the Cultural Revolution pushed them towards everything from magic realism to cyberpunk…”